President Eyring in the General Session

I don’t think that my kids have ever been that well behaved in a session of Stake Conference.  Don’t get me wrong.  Things weren’t perfect, and we had a rough spot near the beginning, but overall (especially near the end), I was amazed at how well they behaved.

The talks again were wonderful.  Even those talks that were given by the young man and young woman were inspired.  Perhaps it was the spirit that President Eyring brought with him to the meeting.  Regardless, this was perhaps the best General Session of Stake Conference I can ever remember attending.

For his last talk to us, President Eyring discussed prayer.  He shared the important message of remembering that the Lord helps those who help themselves.

He shared a story about when he was a young boy his adult teeth had grown in crooked.  And as kids are often likely to do, he was teased by his peers for it.  So, he offered a prayer of faith for God to turn his teeth so that they wouldn’t be crooked.

He knew that when he woke up in the morning that his teeth were going to be straight.  His faith was so strong that when he woke up he didn’t dare feel to see if they had turned for fear that it would show lack of faith.  Instead he got up with a smile knowing that his teeth were fixed.

Until he saw his reflection in the mirror.  They were still crooked.  After more thought and prayer on the matter, he realized that the Lord had provided him with the tools to straighten his teeth.  So after several years when his body was old enough he had them fixed by an orthodontist.

Thus, we see an example of how the Lord blessed him as a young man.  He didn’t need his teeth miraculously healed by the Lord overnight.  Rather he needed to know that the Lord cared for him.

It was a great session.  I feel very privileged to have had this chance to sit and learn at the hand of a prophet of God.  I thank the Lord for providing me this opportunity.

My testimony has been strengthened this weekend.  I know more assuredly, that President Monson is a prophet of God and that he leads Christ Church this day.  I know more fully that Jesus is the Christ, and that he atoned for our sins.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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President Henry B. Eyring at Stake Conference

It is an extremely rare opportunity for a member of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to visit a Stake Conference. In fact, President Henry B. Eyring told us in this meeting that as a general rule the First Presidency doesn’t visit Stake Conferences. However, he felt inspired to visit one before he spoke in General Conference in October. So, he received a list of three Stakes and we were blessed to have him be directed to our Conference this weekend.

Originally, I was planning on giving a complete run down of the things that I learned today. However, after the conference I feel that it would be more appropriate to share just a couple of quotes, and then my thoughts and impressions.

The first meeting was the Priesthood Leadership Meeting. As our church is guided by a lay-clergy, we need training and instruction in our duties. This meeting is a time for us to receive such guidance and council.

In this meeting President Eyring shared with us what he learned in this meeting today. He reminded us that everyone has the Spirit of Christ in them. They know that wickedness never was happiness. The world may have obscured the truth, but they still know it. Then he counseled us to that we should share the truth with these individuals because they don’t know where to find it.

After a short rest to come home and enjoy dinner with the family, we concluded the evening with the adult session of Stake Conference. In this meeting all adult members of the Stake are invited to learn. This is perhaps the part of conference I enjoy the most because I get to sit with my wife, and I can learn without the distraction of my children.

Here President Eyring talked about preparing to enter the Temple. His focus was on both our own re-entering the temple as well as preparing our children to one day enter the temple. The quote (as best as I could write it down) that I wish to share with you is this.

“One thing I could prepare my children to feel before they make temple covenants, It would be to love making commitments to God and keeping them.” (Emphasis mine)

This was and interesting statement. Am I preparing my children to attend the temple by preparing them to love making and keeping commitments to God? Do I love making and keeping commitments to God?  I think that I do, but I don’t know that I am a good example to my children in that aspect.

The other talks were great.  I was greatly moved by the talks give in the Preisthood Leaderhip meeting. I am more motivated in my efforts to work as a missionary because of the talks given by a recently returned missionary and a Ward Mission Leader.  They really were great talks and the Spirit was strong.

Before I end I must comment on how strong the Spirit was in the chapel as I listened to everyone.  It truly testified to me of the divine calling the President Eyring holds.  He is a servant of God, and we are blessed in our day to be directed today under him.  I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Welcome Home PandaMae

Last year I went with my oldest daughter to Girl’s Camp.  Back then I thought it was for her.  I felt that it would make it easier for her to be away from the family for a whole week.

Let me explain, in the LDS Church many there is an organization for the teenage girls.  It is called the Young Women’s organization.  It’s primary focus is teaching the girls the gospel of Jesus Christ.  But the “young women” often learn life skills and have fun.

Each year as part of the learning about Christ, and having fun, and learning life skills, each local organization hosts a camp out.  It is simply called “Girl’s Camp.”  However, in our local church group, girls who are 13- and 14-years old have an extra opportunity to go to Oakcrest.

This camp is filled with crafts, hikes, games, and a night out under the stars.  there are lesson on life, religion, family, and more.  I have never been so I have only a small figurative peak at what they do, but from most girls I get nothing but rave reviews.

Well, if you follow my twitters, then you know that PandaMae left our home for week to go to Oakcrest.  She was very excited and couldn’t wait.

While I sensed some hesitation at the drop off, I knew that she was happy to go.

However, as I think it over, I suspect that the hesitation was mine.  I didn’t want her to go.  I miss my little girl.  Even though she is very quiet, and sometimes she can be in her room for hours and no one notice she is gone, something is different in our home.

Something is missing.

Today she comes back.  And I can’t wait to get home and see her.  I can’t wait to hear about her adventures.  See her pictures, and hopefully get a glimpse at a testimony that has grown.

It’s funny.  My wife is the one who can’t stand the thought of our children growing up and leaving the house.  I often comment on how much I can’t wait tell all the birds have flown the coop.  Yet, it is my wife who has been stellar.  She seldom comments on PandaMae’s absence.  While I don’t think a day has gone by without my mentioning her as gone.

I will probably be the won crying at her wedding too.

Reflecting back to last year, and to the hesitation at the drop off for Oakcrest.  I think that it is me who is more worried about these adventures.  My little girl that used to wake me up with her respiratory alarm at 3 months, the little girl who used to ride her big wheel in the balcony of our apartment, the little girl who used to think that I could fix anything including the credit card in the 3.25″ floppy drive is not my little girl any more.

She’s my big little girl now.

Welcome home PandaMae, I hope you had a fun time.

Virtual Tours of LDS Temples

Wow!  So yesturday I was just clicking around Google, and I found this program of called SketchUp, which is used to make 3D images.  Google offers it for free (and they have pay version) in the hopes that people will make images of their favorite places.  I think that Google hopes to offer a 3D image of the world through Google Earth.

Because I was bored, I figured that I would try to learn SketchUp by making a mock-up of the Salt Lake Temple.  I have a fairly nice model  started, and I am having fun learning it.  But in the process, I realized that several temples (including many of the Salt Lake Temple) have already been done.

So, if you want to have a virtual tour of the exteriors of LDS Temples, then check out the 3D Warehouse of LDS Temples (you will need either Google Earth or SketchUp or both to view them).  I particularly like the models by titotello.

My Christmas Card(s) to You

Rather than giving you one Christmas card this year, I will share 14.  I read about these wonderful cards in the Deseret News. And while watching it, I was touched, and reminded of the reason we celebrate Christmas.  So, I am now sharing them with you.

Some of my favorites are the ones by:
Boston Ashley Madison
Simini Lauren Blocker
Matthew Ray Loveridge
Rachel Ann Jones
Houston Trueblood (with Note that I like his inspiration more than his actual illustration).

I hope that you enjoy them and the presentation as much as I did.

Just as a side note the front page to the cards is wonderful too, but I didn’t want people to get lost there and not see all of the cards.

A Christmas Missionary Memory

Our local ward is putting together a collection of Christmas stories to send to the missionaries who are presently serving missions from our ward.  They specifically asked for Christmas stories from our missions.  And when I heard that I knew that I had to share the following story:

In 1991, I spent my first Christmas away from my family.  I loved Christmas time as a kid, and it was hard to be away from my family.  But I was serving the Lord in Pusan, Korea and I knew that I was where my family and the Lord wanted me to be.

However, since, I was still a new missionary, and I hadn’t quite learned the language yet, I was lonely.  Sure, I had a companion, and house mates, and many wonderful people in the Ward that I was serving in.  However, I just didn’t feel like Christmas.

Koreans don’t celebrate Christmas very much.  It is at best an after thought for most people.  So, there were no dinner invites, or extensive decorations.  I remember that the only sign of Christmas was a Christmas tree in the lobby of the church that we had managed to acquire through the local U.S. Army Base (it is illegal to cut down any tree in Korea, so this tree was from the U.S.).

I finally realized that I was homesick when I was riding on a bus, and everyone seemed to remind me of someone at home.  I saw my Bishop, a friend from high school, and others.  It was getting bad.

Unfortunately, my companion didn’t make it much better.  He was in his 22nd  month and was ready to go home.  I won’t say that he was trunky, but I got sick and tired of watching the video that his family had sent him for Christmas.

The real kicker for that year on Christmas was Christmas day itself.  My companion had figured that since it was Christmas Day he didn’t need to work.  Instead we went to the Ward building and talked with the members for most of the day.  At first there were very few members, but as the day went on, teenagers started arriving after school was out, and my companion who spoke better than I was enjoying talking to them.  Instead, I was left to myself and the occasion member who felt pity enough to try and talk with me.

It was then that I had resolved that the next year, I was going to follow the council of President Kimball on how to overcome homesickness.  While in the MTC, my teachers encouraged us to memorize a quote from President Benson.  It said, “There will be no homesickness, no worrying about families, for all time and talents and interests are centered on the work of the ministry. Work, work, work—there is no satisfactory substitute, especially in missionary work” (The Teaching of Ezra Taft Benson [1988], 200).  So I committed myself to work on Christmas day.

A year later the opportunity came to follow-up on my promise.  I advise my companion, who was even more green than I was a year ago, that we weren’t going to relax on Christmas.  I told him that we were going to work.  Be a more humble missionary than I was, he graciously agreed.  We had no appointments and little plans accept an activity in the Branch that evening.  So, we hit the pavement.

At first, it was a lot of the usual street proselyting activity.  There was not much success as the city we were in was very small, and most of the people knew who we were any way.  After lunch I remember thinking that we need to head to the business district and proselyte on the way.  But the weather turned cold, and it was very tempting just to head to the Branch building to visit with some of the members.

However, remembering my commitment of a year ago, we pushed through the cold.  As the wind blew fiercely, I talked to a high school student.  Who at first didn’t really seem all that interested.  And honestly, when he made the appointment I was sure that he wasn’t planning on showing up.  Really, at the time I didn’t think much about the situation, accept that I remember the cold wind and this kid’s willingness to talk to me for so long.

He did show up to our first appointment and after several visits he ultimately committed to be baptized.  It was then I remember that I had first met this kid while proselyting on Christmas day.  The Lord blessed me with less homesickness, but he also brought one of his chosen children to help him onto the path.

Pew Research Interviews Elder Nelson

Whether you are voting for Romney or not (I am not), you have to agree that he has brought the light on the LDS church. And it sure leads to some great reading material for those who are interested in the church, member or not.

The Pew Forum, which is an arm of the Pew Research Center, had a great interview with Elder Russel M. Nelson, of the Quorum of the Twelve, and Elder Lance B. Wickman, member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, and the Church’s general council.

My first thought on the matter is they really did a great job of introducing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from a secular perspective. They kept the details to the facts and didn’t get into side notes from those who are against the Church.

Further there are some really great quotes from both Elder Nelson and Elder Wickman. In case you don’t have the time to read the whole article, you can check these out:

Forum: A lot has been written in recent years about tensions between the evangelical community and the LDS church. Are those tensions indeed real, are there some ecumenical issues that have to be addressed, and if so, how can they be addressed?

Wickman: I think if they exist, they’re one-sided. They don’t exist on our end. As I said, we believe in Jesus Christ. We teach him, and him crucified; we teach his teachings and doctrines; we find a sense of brotherhood with everyone – regardless of their faith affiliation – who share such beliefs.

This is very true. While we do teach that other religions are false, it is not in or behavior to actively denounce, degrade, berate or put down another religion.

Forum: For many people outside the church, the present seems like a special time for the church because it is getting so much attention. Why is this happening? Why does the church seem to be the focus of so much attention? What’s happening in American society?

Nelson: I think, for one reason, real-thinking people are very concerned with what’s happening to society. The symptoms of immorality and social decadence are alarming, and people are honestly looking for a better way of life. They’re looking for the truth. They’re looking for something they can cling to. . . . (Comments from Elder Wickman removed)

Here’s another thought that comes to me, and that is that nearly everybody has a neighbor who’s a member of this church. There are what, about 200 countries in the world. We have at least one member of the church in every nation of the world now.

First, I agree that the draw to the Church is because people are finding it harder and harder to find good in the world. Thus, the Church has become a bastion for faith, instruction, direction and connection with our Heavenly Father.

Second, Did he really say we have a member of the church in every nation of the world now? Why yes he did. That includes Iraq, Afghanistan (is he counting military personell?) and even the most communist country in the world North Korea. Wow, I would love to meet the North Korean member(s).

Finally, for some interesting statistics about people’s perceptions of the Church and its member, you might be interested in the Pew’s recent publication on the public view of the Mormon faith.  I personally found it interesting the 64% of the public wouldn’t use the Mormon faith of a candidate to vote.  But I should be surprised because it wouldn’t influence my vote either.