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.

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.

Intellegent Design

It looks like I am going to have to do some myth busting again. Even my favorite radio talk show host, Bob Lonsberry, got this one wrong. However, this isn’t to say I know or understand what Christ Buttars means by “divine design” either. But if Buttars’ divine design is similar to intelligent design, then I think that some consideration needs to be given to his proposal.

Intelligent design is NOT creationism. It is NOT Catholicism. It is NOT Protestantism, or Buddhism, or Judaism, or even Mormonism. Further, It is not a politically correct term for religious belief in the creation. In fact, it is really something completely different than what many people believe it to be.

The Intelligent Design Network provides a good definition of intelligent design: “Intelligent design is … a scientific disagreement with the core claim of evolutionary theory that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion. In a broader sense, intelligent design is simply the science of design detection — how to recognize patterns arranged by an intelligent cause for a purpose.” If you prefer a less biased source for your information on intelligent design, than I refer you to Wikipedia.

Intelligent design is based on the same scientific principles as the theory of evolution. To be what it claims to be it would have to be. They use the scientific method to show that the development of the earth had to be done by some intelligence.

They don’t say who (or what) this intelligence is. In fact they avoid any discussion of deity. They wouldn’t be opposed to the intelligent designer being a more capable alien race, or even flying spaghetti monster.

I am not some intelligent design fanatic. I am just simply saying that if this is being put to us to make a decision on whether this is taught in our schools, we NEED to understand what it is. And simply put, it is just another scientific theory. So, why not teach it in our school?

UPDATE (17 Aug 2005): Jeff Lindsay offers an interesting parody of the intellegent design vs. evolution debate.

Solemn & Sagacious Sunday: The Consequences

In our last Solemn & Sagacious Sunday, we used the scriptures to establish the connections between the Law, the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement. And perhaps as we finished this discussion you felt that it was left incomplete. At the time that I was developing these thoughts, I didn’t have any thoughts of incompleteness until I came to 2 Nephi 9.

For in verses 10-12 of 2 Nephi 9, we are presented with a terrible monster (as is the figurative speach used by Nephi). This terrible monster is death and hell. I find it interesting that these two are refered to as one. While, in our mortal minds we often refer to them as two, I feel that their connection is more than we might fully understand as men. So, I will follow the example of Nephi, and refer to them as one.

As is well known the key effects of the Fall is Death and Hell. However, I would like to justify the connection of the Fall and death and hell through 2 Nephi 9:6. Nephi explains that we suffer death and hell “because man became fallen they were cut off from the presence of the Lord.”

But how do we overcome this terrible monster. While Nephi addresses it in chapter 9, I refer back to chapter 2 verse 5 where Nephi explains, “by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.” This misery of course is the death and hell that is mention in chapter 9 verse 10. The Lord has prepared “prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster” (2 Nephi 9:10).

The verses in scripture are countless that could be cited to show the effects of the atonment and our return to our father and heaven, so here I will provide a list of these and allow you to read and understand on your own. Note that I focus mostly on 2 Nephi because that is where much of this study began:

Again, I could cite many more, I haven’t exhausted the list. But from this study, I have extended my map from a presentation of the understanding of the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement, to a model of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This model is now expanded to look like this:

I am grateful to my Father in Heaven for these new insights and understandings and I know them to be true. I testify of their truthfulness in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Got Religion?

In a New York Times news article (subscription required) that was republished on the front page of the Deseret News, Sharon Waxman touts the wonderful job that the media is doing as portraying religion in the movies. She even cites what, in her mind, is an excellent example of this new religiosity in the media.

In the summer blockbuster movie “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie play godless suburbanites and professional assassins. But when they steal their neighbor’s car, a crucifix hangs conspicuously from the rear-view mirror, and in the next scene the actors wear borrowed jackets that read “Jesus Rocks.”

Oh, I see religious people are meant to be taken advantage of and stepped on so that you can meet you own personal goals. Is this really the best example that Waxman can come up with?

Apparently, this is the best that Hollywood has to offer, because as you read the article further you really catch a glimpse at how much Hollywood doesn’t understand the religious contingent that they are now desperately trying to harness. For example, they just couldn’t seem to understand why religious people were offended at the misuse of “God” in the move “Ray.” And they have minimalized religious people’s aversion to R-rated film to everything but the violence.

It’s like they aren’t even trying to understand us. And frankly I really don’t care if they ever do. Because I am sure that their trying to understand the religious contingent in America has more to do with conversion to their perversion than it has to do with money.

What worries me the most from this article is that Christians are a target audience. The article says, “Jonathan Bock, a former sitcom writer who founded Grace Hill Media to specialize in Christian marketing, was hired to help sell Universal’s ‘Cinderella Man,’ Fox’s ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ and Sony Pictures’ ‘Christmas With the Kranks.'” While, I haven’t seen any of the movies discussed in this column, I have one bit of warning. Christian Moviegoers beware. What you may be told is a great move for you, might just be the antics of Mr. Bock in an attempt to increase market shares for a certain movie.

Letters to Elder M: Homesickness

I have had the priviledge of working with one of the finest young men in the Church. For his privacy sake, I will refer to him as Elder M. He recently left on his mission, and I promised to write to him. and I thought that it might be fun to share my letters to hime with you. So, i am introducing a new segment. It will be called Letter to Elder M. I hope you enjoy.

Elder M,

How are you? I am very excited for you at this time. You are in a place that I would love to be in again. However, I am also in a place that I want to be in (i.e., a beautiful wife and wonderful children). My mission was a wonderful time, and I would love to do it all over again. One of my favorite and happiest and saddest dreams was one where I dreamt that I had to leave my wife and kids to serve a mission. I was obviously very sad that I had to leave them behind, but I was also incredibly excited to have the opportunity to serve a full-time mission again. Hopefully that dream will never be a reality, but it is a bitter-sweet dream that I will always remember.

I am writing to you today for three reasons. The first is that I promised you I would write at least once. This gets it out of the way. I have now written to you at least once. Promise kept. The second reason is that I attended A L’s Eagle Court of Honor. And as neat as it was to celebrate with A. I couldn’t help but think how neat it was for me to attend your Eagle Court of Honor. It was a great privilege to work with both you and Andrew and I am glad to see that both of you earned your Eagle. It is a great honor that reflects who both of you are.

The third reason that I am writing to you is because your father and the Bishop both mentioned that you are struggling with homesickness. I am sorry to hear that. However, when I am being honest with myself, I too was homesick on my mission. I remember my first month in Korea, I was riding a city bus through town, and everyone started to remind me of people at home, my bishop, my brother, a friend, my grandmother, etc. I was too proud at the time to admit it, but I was homesick, and I missed my family very much.

Your homesickness is perfectly natural and a tribute to your parents and family. I say tribute, because it means that they took good care of you and loved you dearly while you were here. Just remember that they are still taking good care of you and they most definitely love you now. Remember that, and reflect on it for short periods of time. But not too long. Because the longer you dwell on the feelings of loneliness and sadness, the less the spirit can help you.

In the card that I gave you in congratulations for your pending service as a missionary, I quoted President Ezra Taft Benson (I might have written President Kimball, but it is really President Benson). However, I only quoted three words from it. The three words were, “work, work, work.” I wanted to give the whole quote to you but I didn’t have the time to look it up. So, I have looked it up today. Here it is:

One of the greatest secrets of missionary work is work. If a missionary works, he will get the Spirit; if he gets the Spirit, he will teach by the Spirit; and if he teaches by the Spirit, he will touch the hearts of the people; and he will be happy. There will be no homesickness, no worrying about families, for all time and talents and interests are centered on the work of the ministry. That’s the secret—work, work, work. There is no satisfactory substitute, especially in missionary work. (quoted by James E. Faust, May 1996 Ensign, p. 40).

If you haven’t heard that in the MTC yet, you will. But my challenge to you is to live by it. You might even want to memorize it. You will be blessed if you let this one principle guide you in times of trial.

For Father’s Day, I requested one present. It was a copy of the Preach My Gospel manual. So, I have been studying it personally. As I was studying today, I couldn’t but think that perhaps the scriptures found in the Scripture Study section on page 11, might be of benefit to you. Look them up and listen to the Spirit, I believe that they will be a boost to you moral and help provide you with the compass you need for the next few weeks.

God bless you in your service, I know that you will do well, and that your Father in Heaven will help you to succeed in fulfilling your purpose as a missionary.

With much love and respect,
Travis R Grant