Monday, December 13, 2010

Confusion at Christmas

I was looking for a chapter in the Book of Mormon that talked about Mary, Christ's birth, his baptism, and his life. It's something I shared fairly often on my mission. I wanted to find it, as it's Christmas time, but for whatever reason I couldn't remember where it was. I googled it, and surprisingly had a really hard time getting it to come up. Eventually I found it by looking through the chapter headings of the first and second books of Nephi. It was in the second half of 1 Nephi 11. Through some footnotes, I was also able to find Alma 7, which teaches a similar lesson.

What I did find when I was googling the topic kind of took me off guard. I suppose it shouldn't have, since I've read other similar anti stuff before, but I didn't realize how much debate there was out there on the particular topic of the virgin birth.

I don't like wasting a ton of time on this kind of stuff, as I'm aware of how it sucks away the spirit. It ends up being kind of a vicious cycle, where the more anti stuff you read, the less the spirit is present, and the more confused you become. That, of course, is a specific sign that something is wrong, but if enough confusion is present, you can actually be so confused that you interpret everything backwards. That is, you may incorrectly interpret that your confusion means the church is wrong, rather than that the anti literature is wrong.

I'm not going to give them any link love, but they're easy enough to find if you really want. In several sites I glanced through, however, it became apparent that they were all parroting the same basic argument. So one person put together this little logic chain, and everyone has copied that person. One guy even talked about how much research he'd put into his writeup, although it became quite clear that he was relying completely on secondary and tertiary sources. What I mean by that is that his research was just copying and pasting anti literature from other people's websites.

This particular guy that claimed he did so much research did have a relatively comprehensive review of the anti literature on the topic. Among his claims are that we believe that Mary was not a virgin and that she committed incest (sex with both her father and brother). The way their logic chain works is that they quote Ezra Taft Benson, Brigham Young, and others pointing out that the words of a modern prophet trump the written words of past prophets (i.e., the scriptures). Then they quote, out of context, some early church leaders saying that Jesus was conceived the same way we were, physically, not by a spirit. Since the modern prophet disagreed with what it says in the Book of Mormon and Bible, we therefore believe something different than is written in the scriptures. We don't actually teach that, but then they claim that we have changed our teachings to be more in line with the real Christian world, so we don't even realize that we believe something totally different. What? Do you feel the confusion yet? If you do, it's because this is completely false and wrong.

It's practically ridiculous and a waste of time to even talk about, and yet here I am.

Even in the contextless quotes I read on these sites, not having been back to read the primary sources yet myself, I see nothing in any of them that is out of line with what we believe nor with what the scriptures teach. There are several general authorities who say Jesus was conceived the same way we are. Okay, so conception, as defined by Princeton's WordNet, is "the act of becoming pregnant; fertilization of an ovum by a spermatozoon". Just like when the rest of us were conceived, an egg was fertilized.

The Holy Ghost does not have a body, so of course would not have sperm. The Father does. I don't pretend to know exactly how this process happened, but I do know that artificial insemination is a fairly common process nowadays. While the joke is likely often told about the doctor impregnating thousands of women, no one really thinks of the doctor who facilitates the pregnancy as the father. The sperm donor is the physical father. Is it a stretch that the Holy Ghost delivered the Father's sperm through an act other than intercourse?

The obvious anti answer to this will generally include the term 'cognitive dissonance' or 'belief disconfirmation' or some such other description of the psychological process by which one changes or ignores certain components of their beliefs that are discongruent. Then, of course, if you ask the person you're talking to how they think Jesus was conceived, if they'll even give you a straight answer, they'll say that there is no father or that Jesus is his own father or the Holy Ghost is the father or they'll get into the whole Trinity thing about how they're 3 yet 1 at the same time, etc. In all that, they won't be able to explain the process by which conception took place. To me, their statements make less sense and are filled with just as much cognitive dissonance or belief disconfirmation, if not more than what we believe, especially given that while others disagree with what we teach, they also disagree greatly with each other.

I do not believe it is blasphemy that we can become as God, seeing that many scriptures teach that we may inherit God's glory. I believe it is a great blessing that we have such a potential. Isn't it wonderful, as Nephi and Alma taught in the verses I linked to in the first paragraph above, that Jesus condescended to be with us and suffer the things we suffer so that he might have direct knowledge with which to bless us and help us? That is the story of Christmas. It is not confusion and debate as to the nature of God but rather an understanding that God knows what we go through and loves us.

Friday, December 10, 2010


I was just talking to a friend of mine about her efforts to transform into a morning person. It's something I've struggled with myself. I always worry on campouts that I'll be outed as a terrible leader, because everyone but me is awake, ready to pack up and head out. I haven't had that actually happen, since I usually do wake up earlier on campouts due to discomfort, but I'm not generally the first one up and at 'em. I was 20 minutes late to the gym this morning, because I had a hard time getting up after being up late watching a movie.

I've wondered sometimes if it really matters. Like this blogger says, maybe we're just born different. Why should we let ourselves be discriminated against? Why not push our employers to let us change to a 10-6 or 11-7 work schedule? Maybe we'd be better off moving to the East Coast and then working remotely for a company located on the West Coast. Perhaps there's an outsourcing market for that. Companies that don't want to completely offshore their work could hire slews of night people that live in a planned community in the middle of West Virginia where the curfew would be 4-9 a.m.

Then I remember Ben Franklin's refrain, which is mirrored in the Doctrine and Covenants, about going to bed early and waking up early. An important piece of context that really only softens the blow slightly is the part of the verse that says not to sleep longer than is necessary. I think we can understand that the point is, at least in part, that we shouldn't just sleep our lives away. Focusing just on that part, it would be easy to justify that sleeping in until 10 is okay if you went to bed at 3 a.m., since 7 hours of sleep would not be considered too much. The problem is that it's hard to misinterpret the Lord's point about going to bed and arising early. Of course this doesn't account for night shifts and other strange work schedules, and I'm not going to address that here.

Jumping back a little to verse 121 may provide a little more context. Light-mindedness and lust are more likely to be present at night than in the wee morning hours. Larry Lawrence explained in this last General Conference, "I have always believed that nothing really good happens late at night". It's probably true.

So even though us night people may be more productive at night, it ends up being a problem, since that's also when temptation and weakness are most prevalent. Of course, not everyone is going to just start giving into temptation simply because they are up late.

Looking to the Word of Wisdom, where it is explained that this counsel is adapted to the weakest of the Saints, it helps to understand the all or nothing nature of many of the commandments. There are people who could drink a glass of wine with dinner a couple nights a week and be fine, but for the benefit of those who are predisposed alcoholics, it is completely forbidden for all. That said, it took 100 years for the Word of Wisdom to be phased in as a requirement for all, though even now there remains some debate on the subject.

I'm going to go a direction here that I almost decided not to go, but I think it's an important point of comparison that has helped me. I want to first say that I have friends who I love and respect that are gay, and I'm involved in a local group that seeks to tear down the walls of hatred and misunderstanding related to sexual identity. Hopefully this doesn't serve to cause more contention in the matter, as we know there has been plenty of it to go around already.

If you haven't read that first link I posted, go read it now and then come back. The call to end discrimination by morning people against night people mirrors in some small way the fight against discrimination related to sexual identity. Please remember, I'm trying to say this in a way that doesn't marginalize sexual identity issues but rather reframes to some extent the morning/night person issue.

Of course we shouldn't discriminate against anyone for any reason. I've been treated poorly for being LDS. I feel most of society couldn't care less about the plight of us colorblind (or color deficient as the more commonly accurate term). I have gay friends who have been treated unfairly. It's not right. The movie Chocolat is a good example of the senseless hatred that can arise from treating someone poorly because of perceived differences and self-righteousness.

That said, taking a predisposition for certain weaknesses as a challenge to work on and overcome is an important part of our sojourn on earth. We shouldn't discriminate against others for the issues they have to deal with but rather focus on our own problems and be available to provide support for others in their quests as they need it. Likewise, to embrace our predispositions and flaunt them as natural and impossible to deal with is disingenuous.

It is very hard to balance all these issues without being branded insensitive or worse. My point is that as I work on my own predisposition as a night person, it helps me to know that others have struggled with and overcome predispositions for much more difficult things and helps me to understand, even if just to a limited extent, what they go through.

Something that has helped me as I try to arise earlier (maybe not at 4 a.m. like my dad and father-in-law) is to schedule an early time before work at the gym with other people. Getting my exercise in has helped me get in shape, and knowing there are others expecting me to be there has helped keep me motivated when it's so easy to slip back to sleep (yes, it's happened on more than one occasion). Get up at 6 a.m. enough days in a row, and you'll find your body will wake itself up at that time even without the alarm clock, and it's a lot easier to go to bed by 10 p.m., since you'll be so wiped out from being up so early. As controversial as President Packer's last talk in General Conference was, the advice he gives us is important in overcoming whatever we happen to be working on. Decide to exercise your God-given agency and don't look back. Even as inviting as those warm blankets are.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Tale of Two Unit Commissioners

I'm serving on a Wood Badge staff within the next year, so I've started reaching out to various people I know, from family to friends to fellow scouters and members of current and past wards and stakes to see who is interested in moving to the next level.

It's always interesting to see the various reactions of people. It runs the whole range from apathy to being excited about learning to being burned out from too much training to being worried about gaining a testimony of Scouting.

I talked to a member of our stake YM presidency. Just in case you didn't know, that makes him a Unit Commissioner in Scouting parlance, and no, he didn't know that's what he was. He basically said that he thinks Scouting is outdated and not interesting to the boys. He did leave it open that he could possibly be convinced to go. This is the guy I really need to get to WB.

Then I talked to a colleague I have both professional and church connections to. He's also in the stake YM presidency (of a neighboring stake). He knows very well that he's a Unit Commissioner, knows what he's supposed to do, and even does it. That blew me away. It will be great for him to go, but if I could only choose one of the two to attend the course, I'd choose the first, because he obviously needs it more.

Just to touch on my comment above about being afraid to gain a testimony of Scouting, I've heard similar comments from a few different people. One was a SM friend who was worried that going to WB would turn him into a super-nerdy-scouter along the lines of a mutual acquaintance. I told him that the fact that he was aware of such a thing as super-nerdy-scoutiness was sufficient to ensure he wouldn't become that. Then last week, Sister Smyth and I were out to dinner with some friends. One of the guys had been to WB also, and the other was thinking about it. For the one thinking about it, his worry was literally that he had seen the increased dedication and what change had come upon the two of us who had been, and he wasn't sure if he was ready to be hit with something like that. I confirmed with him that if he wasn't ready to gain a testimony of the scouting program, he shouldn't come to WB. But I hope he does.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

One Lord, One Faith, and One Baptism

In talking about the different ways the LDS Church has implemented Scouting, compared to other chartered organizations, I can't help but think about different modes of baptism as well.

A few years back, a story hit the news circuit about how the Catholics would no longer accept LDS baptisms but rather require that converts from Mormonism to Catholicism be rebaptized. This was supposedly a blow to our attempts over the past decade or more to appear more Christian to other churches around us.

Well, in case you hadn't noticed, we don't accept anyone else's baptism. So what's the big deal if they take ours or not? I know it's strange that Catholics and Protestants would share their baptisms with each other but not with us. It does display a lack of respect and understanding on their part. But if someone has left the church and joined another one, shouldn't that just be considered standard practice that they are baptized by their new church?

An influential leader in the Episcopalian church, Carolyn Tanner Irish, was raised LDS, left the church when she went off to college, and eventually joined the Episcopalian ministry and became a Bishop in that church. She was never rebaptized, but some people wanted her to, since the Episcopalians don't accept our baptism either. It was ruled, however, that since back in the day when she left our church for theirs, they did accept our baptisms; even though that policy was changed later, she would not have to then be baptized again.

We believe that a baptism must be done by the power of the Priesthood and in the right form, under direction of the appropriate presiding authorities according to the keys they hold. If anyone rejects that covenant and goes after what we would consider to be a false church, who cares if they are rebaptized or not? It's nice to know we have that power and that we are guided by revelation to make those decisions, instead of having to just argue about what policies to set.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Chartered Organization

There's a story making its way around about LDS parents who volunteered for a non-LDS Pack until their religion became known, at which point they were basically kicked out.

It's unfortunate that there is still misunderstanding about the nature of our beliefs and whether or not we are Christian. It's too bad helpful volunteers were turned away. It's also too bad people don't seem to understand that there's nothing wrong with the Christ Covenant Church deciding they didn't want the Stokes volunteering.

The chartered organization has a great deal to say about how the units it sponsors are run, including who it chooses as adult leaders of its programs, but there are many other unique things about how we implement Scouting.. Members of Varsity Teams can be aged 14-17, but in LDS units, they are only 14-15. (If you really want to get into it, the Varsity program was started by members of the LDS church and very few units are chartered by other groups, but that's a different conversation.) Venturing Crews can consist of both boys and girls aged 14-21, but in LDS units, they only take boys aged 16-17. LDS units don't use the Tiger Cubs program, which interestingly enough was the reason the Stokes didn't have their sons join the LDS Pack in their ward; they wanted their youngest son to be a Tiger Cub. Webelos aren't allowed to go camping in LDS units. Boys in an LDS-sponsored 11-year-old patrol can only go camping three nights during the year and are not allowed to have activities with the deacons, except in special, pre-approved occasions.

Need I go on? We do things differently. I know there are LDS units that have had non-LDS parents as volunteers, and I know there are LDS units that have rejected non-LDS parents as volunteers. There is not clear direction on the matter, so it's obviously something left up to local leaders to decide.

The LDS Church has a lot of sway over directions that BSA takes. We are the largest sponsor, both in terms of units and number of boys. It's my understanding that until recently, the Methodists had more boys, but since we had more sponsored units, we could still outvote them. As it is, they're not far behind us in terms of total number of boys, but we have over three times as many units as they do. Doing the math, you find that LDS units have on average the lowest number of boys per unit at 11, a full 2.5 SD below the mean of 27. We break up our units based on wards, which leads to an unnaturally small number of boys in each. Really, each quorum should be a patrol in a stake troop, but I digress.

We just really shouldn't get so worked up about others doing things differently than we expect, when we also do many things differently ourselves. Part of the strength of the BSA is the flexibility they give COs to adjust the program as they see fit. We benefit from it and should allow others to take advantage of that option as well.

General Conference

I had a great time tweeting conference earlier this month. It was a pretty amazing experience. I watched every session, didn't fall asleep during any of them, and got great messages out of them.

I have an archive of about 20,000 tweets with the #ldsconf hashtag. I've played around with it a little and will be posting soon some analysis of it. I plan on doing a comparison of what people were tweeting about compared to what each speaker's talk was about. I'll probably start with a more general word analysis first, then be a little more thorough on certain talks. I just think it would be interesting to see how well the message people were getting matched up with what the speakers were actually saying.

Just to throw out something to think about while waiting for further analysis, the top words, each with over 400 appearances are:


Those are in highest frequency to lowest frequency order, but I've left off the numbers, so it doesn't distract too much. It's interesting that the three standalone letters are the prophet's initials, TSM, and they also happen to be letters that commonly show up after an apostrophe. I'm assuming that's why the word "don" made the list, as it should have probably been "don't". I may have to try stripping out apostrophes and running the numbers again to see how that changes things.

Stay tuned.

Monday, September 20, 2010

This is the worst campsite ever.

Time for a funny story from camp. I wish I'd have been able to make it, even with not being the Scoutmaster anymore. I had some other commitments and was unable to attend, though. It's been a long time since I missed a summer camp.

So I had made reservations for summer camp well over 6 months early and specifically picked a certain campsite that was off by itself, large, yet with a sweet little spot where you can park your car and not have to handcart or pack your stuff all over the place.

Apparently by the end of the week, nerves were wearing thin, and some of the boys were looking for things to complain about. Nothing new there. :) They started saying how much they hated their site. It was so far away, not enough trees, too close to the road, blah, blah. They were all united in being upset that the camp director had put them out in this wasteland.

That was until the new SM, Brother Bentley, had enough with the griping. He pointed out that the camp director didn't stuff them out in no man's land. Smyth made the reservation, and he chose the campsite. Look at the other sites. They're tiny or there are groups of 5 or 6 of them piled on top of each other or they're right on a busy trail so everyone is walking around or through their camps all day.

Oh. Well, yeah, I mean, Smyth picked a good site. Yeah, it's pretty nice, with water close by and a big area to spread out our tents in, and everybody isn't cutting through our camp all the time.

It was great. As soon as they knew I had picked the site, they liked it. I had picked it for all those reasons, since I'd been there before. It's just funny how quickly the tune changed, and it made me feel good that the complaints stopped when they knew I had hooked them up with an awesome site, whereas when they thought it came from some random dude they didn't know, it was a terrible site.

Time Off

I've gotten used to it. Not being the SM, that is. I was released with some reorganization that was done in the ward a little while ago, and I haven't gotten around to coming back here to talk about it. Part of it is because of the mixed feelings I have. The Bishop didn't want to burn me out too much, especially with some grad school stuff going on. I'm still serving on the Troop Committee, so I help out where I can.

The thing that has slapped me around and brought me back to the blog after a 5 month hiatus (that was after a year of posting at least once a month), is that I was just asked to be on Woodbadge staff again. I'm excited about it. I hope to be able to recruit some great people in our ward and stake.

It has been great to see the new Scoutmaster picking up all the training and going to some great council-sponsored activities. The new guys are doing a great job. I hope I can get at least one of them to my Woodbadge course.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Call it what you will, so long as you DO IT

I've been more worried about the Varsities in our ward and whether they'll be having a high adventure activity this summer. I finally got around to talking to their leaders this Sunday at church and found out that they do, in fact, have an idea of what they're doing. They don't have a date set, but they have a location and some activity ideas. Okay, now if I can just figure out what happened to the three volume Program Feature book that I gave to the semi-inactive former Varsity Coach, the Varsities should be in pretty good shape.

For some reason, I was thinking the Priests were going to be in much better shape. I just happened to ask one of their new leaders what they were doing for their high adventure this summer. He said he didn't think they were doing anything, since the YM President said that's a scouting thing, and they don't really do scouting stuff.

Arg. Do we really have to start this up again? I explained that while it's optional to register the Priests as a Venture Crew or just run as a priesthood quorum, whether or not you're running as a scouting unit, you should always have a high adventure activity. I got to go on three as a Priest: camping out at a huge lake for waterskiing and cliff diving, a whitewater rafting trip, and a cycling trip. They didn't go a full week, but went probably 2-4 days apiece. We spent a lot of time getting ready for the cycling one, but pretty much just showed up to the other ones. I don't remember having anything to do with the choosing or planning of the activities like we should have done, either. But we did something.

Over the past few years in our ward, the Priests have done things decidedly less high adventure than what I did when I was younger, notably paintballing and hanging out at a cabin while cooking Dutch Oven. But they did something.

The Priests now are the same group of boys who I had as Varsities. When I was called by the Bishop, he told me they hadn't had a summer activity the previous year, and my number one responsibility was to make sure they had a high adventure activity the next summer. We did. Actually, we had two three-day high adventure activities, which I hope kind of made up for not having anything the previous year. Oh yeah, and we made some sweet throwing tomahawks.

To ditch out on the boys the last year, because doing a high adventure activity would be too scouty or because it's hard to find time to do it is just lame. The boys deserve to go out big and have something to remember the rest of their lives. They deserve to have a chance to put into practice all the leadership and survival skills they've been learning over the past decade, more than half of their life at that point.

It's also important for the younger scouts to see the awesome activities the older boys are doing and know they have something to look forward to. Hey, work hard at the merit badge camp this year, and you'll get to go on this awesome backpacking trip next year! Or, work hard at the merit badge camp this year, because for the next couple years your leaders don't want to do anything with you.

Is there a wonder neither the boys nor the leaders are motivated to do anything if attitudes like that abound?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

New Duty to God Program

A couple hours ago, during the Saturday morning session, President Eyring announced a new Duty to God program. He didn't give details but did say that there would now be one book for all the groups instead of three books (one for each) like there is now. has a little additional information, but not much. There are still going to be different requirements and certificates for each priesthood quorum; they will just all be contained in one book. It's interesting that while there are certificates of completion, the church points out that the principal method of recognition is presenting the young man to the ward or branch for advancement to the next quorum.

The young men will have the option to finish up the old program requirements they're currently working on but will be encouraged to switch to the new program when it becomes available sometimes this summer.

A change that I would like to see is to allow YM leaders to also earn the award. YW leaders can complete Personal Progress by serving for a year and completing 3 of the 8 areas from that program. It makes sense that the YM leaders would be able to earn Duty to God also. It's not that we need the award to keep us motivated, but I believe it helps keep the boys motivated if they know their leaders are working on the same requirements, and it keeps us honest.

In Varsity Scouts, leaders can earn the letter and pins that the boys earn, plus leaders from all branches of scouting have the training knots they can complete. On the church side of things, leaders can earn the On My Honor award. My experience is that few youth or leaders receive On My Honor, even though if you're doing what you should be doing you earn it. I'd like to see more people get awarded what they earn. If you earn it, you should be recognized. If you don't earn it, that means something isn't happening that should be happening, and keeping the requirements for the award in mind will remind everyone what they should be doing if the program is working right.

Thursday, March 18, 2010, Society

It's been awhile since I've bagged on the sisters. Sister Smyth was just at an Enrichment Night, so it made me think of something I meant to mention awhile ago. On September 26, 2009 Sister Beck announced at the General Relief Society meeting that all Relief Society meetings would be called just that, Relief Society. Basically, there's no need to distinguish weekly/monthly/quarterly non-Sunday activities from weekly Sunday activities, so there's no longer such thing as Enrichment.

Which is weird, because about a month after that, the Relief Society presidency in our ward was reorganized, and they called a sister as the Enrichment counselor. How does that work, when there's no such thing as Enrichment anymore? Just call her the first or second counselor like almost every other organization in the church does, and put her over non-Sunday Relief Society meetings, or however you want to phrase it. It just makes you wonder if the new Relief Society president was watching the General Relief Society meeting the month prior. I know old habits die hard, but the change from Homemaking to Enrichment wasn't that big of a deal, and many people actually liked it.

The bigger question to bring it back to Scouting, then, is if we don't expect people to pay attention to something as simple the name of a meeting or to give someone a calling that actually exists, how will we expect them to pay attention when they're asked to complete more comprehensive training like Woodbadge, as taught by former YM president Charles Dahlquist?

Friends of Scouting

Ah, time for Friends of Scouting again. I wish I enjoyed this part of the job a little more than I do. There's just something about going out and asking people for 50 bucks that I don't enjoy. I think the money goes to a great place, helping to pay for our council camps, which are awesome. I just don't like doing it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Let My People Go

I've had a bit of a sore throat the past couple days. This morning when I woke up, I had one of those extra deep voices. I couldn't help but sing a couple lines of Go Down Moses while waiting at the bus stop. (There wasn't anyone else there.)

It reminded me of one Sunday when I was a Priest. Being 17 years old, of course I stayed up late and slept in until right before church started. So I got up and ready and drove myself to church without having talked to anyone, since my family had left before I got up.

It was my turn to bless the sacrament, and since I hadn't really said anything outloud yet, a booming, deep morning voice came out.

Now, when you have something weird with your voice, you can try to cough a little and clear it up and start over at totally different pitch or just keep going. I kept going. I figured switching in the middle would be more noticeable than continuing on, plus there's no guarantee after clearing your throat that it's going to be any different, so the grunting into the microphone may have been in vain anyway.

The other side of that, of course, is as a teenager, I would have been somewhat proud of my deep, booming voice. If I had to pick now, I'd choose to be able to knock out a wicked high tenor, but at the time, I was proud of the fact that I fit squarely into the bass section in choir. I suppose how low your voice goes fits right in there with shoe size, height, a paycheck over $100, and beard development for a teenager showing off his manliness.

So I was secretly pleased after the meeting at the comments on my sacrament prayer. Of course I now know that if I'm doing enough to draw attention to me during the prayer, people are not thinking about what they should be thinking about because of my distraction, which is bad.

But not bad enough to turn down the chance to bless the sacrament this Sunday if I'm asked to sub and my voice is still in the same shape as it is today.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Law

I was in a class on Sunday where the teacher was talking about obedience and the line between following the spirit of the law and the letter of the law.

We started out by listing a few items that were obviously letter of the law things. Thou shalt not kill was put there, although it was pointed out that for Nephi, there was a bit of an exception made. We listed several more items, and the last item mentioned just as we were about to move onto another topic was the Word of Wisdom.

This is the one the teacher was looking for. The obvious letter of the law part to the Word of Wisdom is the no coffee, tea, drugs, tobacco, and alcohol component. But the question is where eating meat only in times of famine or the other "be healthy" components of this law fit in. Of course, if you ask Gramps, he'll say that D&C 89 is being misinterpreted, and that a rogue comma renders verse 13 exactly the opposite of its original intent. I don't want to get into that issue too deeply. We eat meat without having our temple recommends taken away.

The teacher's point again, though, was that we need to get away from having a line drawn between the spirit and letter of the law. We just need to be obedient. Our stake president recently gave a talk where he urged us to use the spirit of the law to make ourselves more obedient, not to creep over the line into the letter of the law portion of obedience. That is, you don't use the spirit of the law to justify breaking the letter of the law a little bit, as long as you had the right intent.

The spirit of the law should make us more obedient. That is, we should be avoiding food with lots of fat, sugary soft drinks, caffeine, and anything else that is obviously bad for us, while exercising more. As we were discussing the Word of Wisdom, I mentioned something about how it says we should "run and not be weary and walk and not faint". A large brother in the class countered that that statement is a blessing, not a commandment. I didn't want to get into an argument with an overweight member of the class about whether he was breaking the Word of Wisdom, so I just backed off.

The more I think about it, though, I don't see the difference between this being a commandment versus a blessing. The Lord commands us to avoid bad food, eat good food, and be obedient to the commandments. If we do that, we'll be healthy, gain knowledge, and run and not be weary. You can take the word "run" either literally or figuratively, but either way, again, it's the same. The Lord wants us to eat good food, exercise, gain knowledge, and otherwise be well prepared to carry out his work here on this earth.

I'm sorry, but if you're morbidly obese, I believe you're breaking the commandments. You cannot run and not be weary; you can barely walk without stopping for a breather. You cannot go visit the sick, because you are the sick. You cannot go on a mission if your BMI is over 37. You cannot go on many Scouting high adventure activities if your BMI is over 30. The Lord will not bless you to be able to run if you have not done the things that make that physically possible.

The Word of Wisdom here is just an example of one law, so I don't mean to harp on it too much. The principle of obedience applies to any law.

It was brought up in class that there are certain things that will keep you from getting a temple recommend, where many other things may not. You can also get into Elder Oaks' explanation of the difference between disobeying a law that is simply a legal prohibition versus one that is an inherent wrong. But again, drawing the line at what will keep you out of the temple or breaking laws like speeding that are only legal prohibitions and not inherent laws of nature, are not in line with the spirit of the law and will prevent you from being an effective servant of the Lord.

By fully committing oneself physically, spiritually, and otherwise, we will be more blessed and available to do the Lord's work better than someone who just does the bare minimum.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

So Responsible

Being the fifth Sunday this month, we had combined meetings today. They had a special topic for all the sisters in the ward, Young Women and Relief Society. The Teachers, Priests, and their leaders taught Primary while the sisters all went to their special meeting. The Elders and High Priests also met together.

I was in the back of the Primary room just kind of watching for any situations that might need a little help during closing exercises. Robby, one of my previous scouts who is almost 16 turned around a couple times to point out how loud my son was. I had been out of the room for a few minutes and never saw him being out of control, but supposedly he was while I was gone. Robby told me that they were able to get him under control by giving him something to eat.

I know my son can get a little excited sometimes, but usually in large groups or around people he doesn't know as well, he gets pretty quiet. I won't know what really happened while I was gone, but the part that I thought was most interesting was that it was Robby who was being so responsible in having to help deal with someone who was having a hard time paying attention and being quiet. Robby was usually one of those who had the same problem. We actually called him to be the Deacon's Quorum president with the idea that by keeping him as close as we could to us it might be possible to at least aim his boundless energy, even if it were impossible to control it.

Now there he was today, doing everything he could, including bribing a younger child with treats, to try to get the child to pay attention during a lesson and other activities, probably using some of the same tricks that have been used on him over the years. By the time I got there, the situation was under control, so whatever he did worked. He's become so responsible. I just can't wait to see him 10 years from now with kids of his own, serving as SM himself.


Michael, one of my boys who is a little more rambunctious than some, can jump back and forth between being the sweetest kid in the world to being a total hellion. At least you never have to wonder which one it is. You will always know what he is up to. There's no sneaking around or hiding emotions with him.

I had been teaching a Sunday lesson a few months ago where most of the boys were being rowdier than normal. After trying to ignore them or redirect their conversation for as long as I could stand it, I finally blew my top a little. Now, with me, that's actually a pretty rare occurrence, and a calculated one at that. That is, I'll let the anger loose a little for show.

So I let them have it, sucked out any spirit that was left in our quorum meeting, and started trying to get back into the lesson. A few minutes later, Michael was the one who had the misfortune to be the first to act out of line again, and I actually did let it go. My patience had been worn down enough, and with the spirit gone as it was, I harshly told him he was dismissed from the class.

He actually looked a little scared as he left the room, and the Bishop's counselor followed him out to talk to him for a minute. I felt bad the rest of the meeting. I saw his dad in the hall after church and told him what happened, just so he'd have my explanation of what happened before he got Michael's explanation.

After talking to his dad, I immediately biked over to his house, which is just a couple blocks from the church, and apologized to him. I can't really even remember what I said, just something about appreciating him in our quorum, and I shouldn't have kicked him out, and we can work together, etc. He seemed to be okay with it.

Over the next month or so, nothing seemed to be much different one way or another, other than I was still feeling bad. Then I was sitting next to him in quorum meeting several weeks later when someone else was teaching. The whole time we were making little jokes back and forth about whatever, to the point that we would just look at each other and start laughing. I kept it under control as much as possible, disrupting the class as little as possible, but there was a little bond forged there. Ever since then, he often says things about how he wants to sit by me so we can joke around or that we know what each other is thinking without even having to say anything.

We learn in Scouts and elsewhere that as teams and relationships develop, something that really bonds people is going through hard things together. Never stressing or testing a relationship means that the relationship has never been properly forged to begin with.

While down inside I still feel bad for kicking Michael out of class that day, I know he doesn't. He would say something if he did, since you always knows what he's thinking, good or bad. I've also grown to respect him more than I did before. Having worked through some frustration with him and seeing the ease with which he could forgive and forget, he has been an example to me.