Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Judge Not

We were out of town visiting extended family for Christmas. We attended sacrament meeting in a ward where we knew a few people from having lived there over a decade ago. As you can guess, there was a mixture of a few people that we knew well, a few people we recognized but couldn't remember their names, some we weren't sure if they remembered us, and then plenty of new people.

While my wife was talking to one couple sitting right inside the chapel door, I was trying to get her to follow and get one of the few remaining soft benches before being relegated to the hard seats in the gym. I was holding the baby so I couldn't take off while she was still talking, since they were talking about the baby. We ended up sitting in the gym.

The part that was strange, however, wasn't the conversation with that couple. It also wasn't that we had to sit on hard chairs. I'm okay with the hard chairs, but it's simply easier to deal with kids in the confined space of a bench than in an open gym.

So where it got weird was the random people sitting next to the couple we were talking to. She's someone who we probably know but were having trouble placing. As we were showing off the baby to the couple we did know, the other lady out of nowhere starts commenting on the outfit the baby was dressed in. She was wearing a little Santa-esque outfit: satin red pants and matching flare waist top with a silver bow in the middle and silver shoes. She had a huge red bow on her head. To be fair, her car seat buckles probably covered up most of the bow on her top, the car seat head support may have partially blocked the huge bow (but no way it could have blocked all of it), she was wearing pants (at church, I know), and she has really short hair. To counter-counter-balance that, however, her carseat cover is very pink. So the lady we don't really remember and aren't talking to says something about "the things we do to our children" and then something about taking a picture of him and showing it to his fiance when he has one.

Of course we ignored and walked away and then stewed about it later. Him? How could she not see the huge bow (it has its own weather system) or the pink carseat cover? How dare she call our baby girl a boy? Even if we did dress our man-child in red satin and silver shoes, what business is it of yours?

Fast forward to after the sacrament. Several times during the talks and musical numbers, a teenage girl sitting in front of us, probably about 14 years old, leaves and comes back about 3 times. But it's not the fact that she can't sit in her seat for an hour that has me wondering; it was the length, or lack thereof, of her skirt. Her parents were turned around and looking at our new little one and commenting on how cute she was when she woke up and I picked her up during the sacrament, so obviously they have some sense of what's cute even if they don't have sense enough to comment on the cuteness until after the sacrament is over (or preferably the entire meeting). It all starts to come together as I begin judging them: talking during the sacrament, the father not wearing a white shirt, kids coming and going freely during the talks and music, daughter wearing inappropriate clothing...

Then it hit me. Judge not that ye be not judged. Just as I hadn't liked having a random sister judge what my daughter was wearing, I shouldn't be judging what that family was wearing or what their actions were during the meeting. I can think of all kinds of reasons that someone might wear slightly inappropriate clothing to church or have to get up and go several times during the meeting, and whether or not any of those applied was none of my business.

Of course, then I remembered Joseph Smith's correction. Judge not unrighteously. Maybe it is okay for me to judge; it was a very short skirt after all. But how do you know if you're judging righteously? As luck would have it, Elder Oaks gave a talk on this topic several years ago. He points out that there are two types of judgment: final judgment (which is reserved for God to make) and intermediate judgment (which we are commanded to make according to righteous principles). Of course he then gives us the righteous principles by which we may know if we are righteously judging:
  • Refrain from declaring that a person has been assured of exaltation or from dismissing a person as being irrevocably bound for hellfire, since that is a final judgment.
  • Judgment should be guided by the Spirit of the Lord, not by anger, revenge, jealousy, or self-interest (it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as the daylight is from the dark night...for behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil).
  • Judgment must be within our stewardship.
  • Refrain from judging until we have adequate knowledge of the facts (perhaps thou shalt say: the man has brought upon himself his misery...whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent).
  • Whenever possible we will refrain from judging people and only judge situations.
  • Forgiveness is a companion principle to the commandment that in final judgments we judge not and in intermediate judgments we judge righteously (forgive, and ye shall be forgiven).
  • A final ingredient or principle of a righteous judgment is that it will apply righteous standards (with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again).
The easy part is I'm not the girl's father or YW leader, nor am I the family's Bishop or even home teacher. So, simply put, without going through all the other principles, it's not my stewardship, so it's none of my business.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pie Heaven

Talking with a coworker in the middle of the holiday season, after Thanksgiving but before Christmas, the obvious topic of food came up. We have a saying in our family that "it's all about the food" when we get together. Her family has a similar deal, where they talk about how if there's no food in heaven, they don't want to go.

A favorite Jack Handy quote of mine comes to mind.

When you die, if you get a choice between regular heaven or pie heaven, choose pie heaven. It might be a trick, but if it’s not, mmmmmmm, boy!

Pie Heaven sounds pretty awesome to me, although I did just find out over Thanksgiving that I have an in-law who doesn't like pie. Who knew?

As I was thinking about there being food in heaven, I thought of what we will be doing in heaven. The big goal is to become God, a creator of worlds. The funny picture came to mind of this powerful being sending his children down to build a world for which they had just finished the plans. As soon as everyone is gone, he turns around and makes this huge 5 pound burrito or 30 inch pizza appear. Is that why he creates worlds without number? He keeps sending everybody off to create new worlds so they'll leave him alone long enough that he can gorge himself, yet with a perfect body that doesn't suffer any ill effects.

It sounds pretty ridiculous, because it is. It's great that we can find enjoyment through food, but part of the test of this life is to overcome those physical desires. A perfect godly body wouldn't feel cravings for pies and burritos. Chances are a perfect body would feel better all the time than the short-lived satisfaction you get from eating something sinfully delicious. If you can't get to a point where you're over food, you've probably got bigger problems.

Coming back to our two families' thoughts on food in the first paragraph, they are obviously both a little exaggerated. We know there is much more to life than great food. Just as it's difficult for us to understand life where time does not apply, since that is an artificial constraint placed on us in this world, it's difficult to picture not having to eat.

Unlike other sins, where complete abstinence is the command, you can't just stop eating. It almost makes it more difficult. It's certainly not a sin to eat a piece of pie, but where do you draw the line (or the wide gray swath)?

Tie together our dependence on time and the need to eat, and things get even more difficult. Our busy lives make it harder to plan and prepare good-for-you food, so we eat whatever fast food garbage is available to us.

I don't have any answers here, as I'm caught in the same trap. That said, I am looking forward to going to a heaven where I don't have to eat. Except when I want to.

Friday, October 7, 2011


On the comment board of a story about the freak Warren Jeffs, the discussion was being held about agency. Obviously there is some crazy brainwashing going on in the FLDS compounds. One commenter posited that LDS families are doing the same things to our children. His point was lost, however, when he threw out there that Warren Jeffs himself may not have been equipped well enough to make appropriate decisions given the abusive environment he grew up in. As true as that may be, my understanding is that abusive practice multiplied when he took over leadership.

Regardless of whether Jeffs had enough knowledge of the outside world to make his own decisions, the question stands whether our children do.

An interesting reply to the above:

A large percentage of LDS boys don't go on missions. Large percentages don't go to BYU, or get married in the temple, or remain active after age 18. Many choose to leave the church. We don't throw them out of our families for making these choices. We continue to love them, pray for them, and be there for them whether or not we like their choices.

We teach them as well as we can while they are young, but it's their choice and their decision. Most of our kids go to public schools, watch TV, have internet access, etc. They have plenty of opportunities for hearing other viewpoints. Just look at the number of former LDS who comment on these boards!

The point generally speaking is a valid one. We love them and teach them; they make their own decisions. The part I'm a bit concerned about is the first half of the second sentence. What does going to BYU have to do with the rest of that paragraph? No mission? Check. No temple? Check. No church attendance? Check. No go to BYU? Sorry, but that's not the same as forsaking and/or declining to make covenants with the Lord.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Eagles and Driver Licenses

I can't imagine my boys not earning their Eagles or my daughters not earning their Personal Progress. I would like my boys to earn their Duty to God, although I'm not as worried about that.

I don't think it's appropriate to hold something like a child's driver license over earning such an award.

I like the idea of teaching our children correct principles, modeling those principles in our own lives, and then giving them enough rope to either be productive or hang themselves. Not literally. Obviously at some point you step in and take drastic steps to avoid major life changing issues.

Children who are rebellious, lazy, doing poorly in school (I'm thinking really poorly, not just like B average poorly, but to the extent where they are being irresponsible), bad drivers, or otherwise not deserving of a driver license should not receive their driver license. That's probably not the real list but rather one I just made up right now and am not going to think much about. The point is that each child is different, so when it becomes time that it is an issue, you work it out with each child individually.

I can see daughter #2 coming straight out and telling us she doesn't even want to drive even if deep down she is desperate to. If there is something she is worked up about related to some award she doesn't want to be pressured to get, everything else in the entire world, good or bad, can be stacked up on every side, and she will retain her laser focus on not wanting to earn the stupid award. She will even be convinced herself that she doesn't want to drive. Until she wants to, at which point she will forget that she just told us 5 minutes ago that she doesn't care if she can drive.

Daughter #1 will have her Personal Progress earned the first day it is possible to have it whether or not there is any external reward for it.

The kids will be expected to help shuttle their siblings around as part of earning the privilege of driving. My parents didn't make me pay for my portion of the car insurance, but I think it's a good idea for them to understand at a deeper level that the cost of a vehicle is more than just the gas you put into it. Better grades and no tickets means lower insurance costs. You have to find a job and balance your time wisely in order to keep your grades up and earn the money you need and still participate in family and school activities.

I want my children to be responsible. If they are, they will probably earn their oh-so-important awards anyway just because they are responsible. If they are not responsible, not earning their awards may be a sign of that. They may also be very responsible but simply have to make decisions about what is important to them and the Eagle or Personal Progress may not be that. With the kids in my troop, I can tell within a few weeks of working with them whether or not they will get their Eagle. I think I know my kids a lot better than that so there should be no surprise to anyone if they earn it or not.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Women's Suffrage

President Obama's campaign blog posted yesterday about it being 91 years since women were allowed to vote in the country, when Tennessee ratified the 19th amendment.

It's just interesting to note how several states, including highly Mormon Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah gave women the right to vote decades earlier. No need to mention that in your blog, though, since you won't be getting any of those states' electoral votes anyway.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


We had a stake swim party this past week. There were three interesting hair-related thoughts I had, all related to different types of hair.

One was seeing a dude that was just covered in back and chest hair. We're talking a Sasquatch coat here. I've never been so thankful to have so little body hair than when I saw this man at the pool.

Second was a conversation I had with my bishop and several other ward members. I generally shave on Sundays for church and on days I go into the office. This past week I didn't go into the office, so hadn't shaved for close to a week. I didn't think much of it but had a decent beard going, which apparently threw a lot of people off.

Last was my daughter. The sun was going down and those intense, colorful last few rays shone through her red hair and made it glow like the dying embers of a late night campfire. It was truly stunning.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Lesser Law of Correlation

While I've heard or read a few different people talking recently about how boring, unspiritual, or somewhat stifling our church meetings are sometimes, especially sacrament meetings, I rarely feel the same way.

I feel like I get out of church meetings what I put into it. The best way to get something out of temple attendance, sacrament meeting attendance, participating in sunday school classes, scripture reading, prayers, etc. is to go into it with a question in mind. Whatever the topic, start thinking and asking questions about it, and very quickly everything you see will be focused around that topic. It's pretty amazing to watch.

One of our local leaders recently gave a presentation regarding how many of the changes coming from church headquarters are actually moving away from the bureaucratic, centralized direction of the past in favor of more direction from local leaders. Examples of this are the new church handbook, recent changes to the Duty to God program, the ward council structure, etc.

If anything, they are putting the ball in our court to see what we will do with it without being commanded in all things. If we're not ready for the higher law, we're going to go back to correlation and centralization. I don't think that's good for anyone, but if we're only ready for the lesser law at this time, it's all we're going to get.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


You occasionally hear people talking about families, love at home, etc. and how it's sometimes family members that get treated the worst. We put on a respectful act for others, but at home we let the real us go. How is it that the people we love the most are the people we treat the poorest?

As I've thought about that train of thought a little, I think it's a little disingenuous. The thought is a nice one, that we should treat our family members better. However, there are two things about the above "poor treatment" of family members that may really show the love we have for each other.

The first may be a little bit of a stretch, but I still think it's important. We are ourselves around our family. We don't put on a show for them like we do for other people. Yes, sometimes you hide things from your mom that you don't want her to know you're doing, but for the most part, it's raw, not an act.

The second is the most important. Forgiveness. No matter how many times family members have arguments, disagreements, fights, provocations, etc., we come back together and immediately forgive. We still spend time together, have fun together, and love each other.

With other relationships, if a friend causes that many problems, they may eventually be cut loose but not with family. Family is forever. Of course, there are extreme counter examples to both, but my guess is that forgiveness is the rule in families more often than it is not.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wood Badge Spirit

There truly is a spirit to Wood Badge. It has the power to change lives. The courses I have been involved with in the past have done so for me and for many others that I know. I was able to serve on another course recently, and it didn't disappoint.

I'll write more about some of my experiences and feelings soon, but for now I wanted to mention how true it is that for anything good, there is an evil force working against it.

If the people who are too scared/cool/busy/etc. to go, including members of several Bishoprics and Stake Presidencies that I know, not to mention people who consider themselves to be pretty dedicated Scouters, had any idea what awaited them at Wood Badge, they would run to it. I know some people who have seen enough others go through it that the reason they avoid it is because they don't want to commit to the increased dedication that results from it. Most people just have no idea.

I really liken recruiting for Wood Badge to the mission: visiting everyone you know, telling them about something that is special to you and that you know will make their lives better. Just like investigators on the mission will be scared off by family members, nosy neighbors, or an evil spirit, the same happens with Wood Badge. I've seen enough miracles to know that the right people will eventually make it to the right course.

How great it would be if we had ten times as many members of the church Wood Badge trained! Oh that I were an angel.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Changing or Cheating

Some ward members started a fitness challenge, and I'm joining in. I do much better at keeping myself in shape when I have someone other than myself that I'm accountable to. The chance at winning cash doesn't hurt either. I've done well at a few of these challenges done through work or with family.

The funny thing is that I see the same behavior in some participating in this challenge as I've seen in previous ones. The behavior I'm referring to is nitpicking the rules of the challenge.

The point of a challenge like this is to spend a 2-3 months following more healthy practices with the hope that you'll stay in the habit after the challenge is over. So it's strange when a challenge barely starts and everyone starts immediately looking for ways to bend the rules.

The rules are things like eating fruits and vegetables, exercising, not eating late at night, drinking lots of water, and laying off the sweets. It's pretty simple.

One good brother justified his willingness to bend the rules and eat things he shouldn't, because he claims that cutting out certain foods simply isn't sustainable. I'll give him that. Making a change for a few months and then picking the habit back up after it's over is probably less than useful. On the other hand, going cold turkey and dropping something that you never thought you could forgo can actually show you it's possible and reduce your cravings for that particular food or drink.

I know, because I've done it myself, going a year without carbonated drinks just to see if I could. I drink them occasionally now, but not near as much as I used to. If you're so hooked on a food or drink that you don't think you could ever give it up, that's probably a signal that you do need to give it up.

I'm okay with him cheating, though, because it's less competition for me as I go for the big prize.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I had a strange conversation with my boss about a month ago that made more sense today.

It was just the two of us in his office, and somehow the conversation turned to Yoga. I really don't remember how, and it doesn't matter. He mentioned he had started doing it at home. Fine. He had some DVDs he was using to learn it. Okay. You feel like you're standing or sitting there doing nothing, breathing deeply, and you end up way sore the next day; it's a great workout. Sounds interesting.

Then it gets weird. He starts saying something and then pauses for a second and says, "I know you're Mormon, and I really don't want you to take this the wrong way, but what I really like about Yoga is how it's all about the individual. It's about what you do to benefit yourself personally. You can introspect and modify things however best suits your needs."

Okay, so what does that have to do with being Mormon? I could kind of guess where he was going with it, that he obviously has some issue where he thinks the LDS Church is too controlling or something. It was just hard to say. Last I remember we teach about the importance of agency, self-reliance, and similar doctrines, but I understand the confusion caused by being cautioned against detrimental behaviors which often serve to remove agency.

So turn off the wayback machine, and we're at a conference that has some early morning Yoga for attendees. Not having ever done Yoga before, I'm interested and go. I knew he was interested, having told me previously he likes it, so I tell him he should come tomorrow. Then the connection is made. He says that he's not into organized religion or organized exercise.

So he apparently has this little schpiel he gives, and apparently the first time he only gave me the half about not liking organized exercise, forgetting to mention organized religion other than to ensure me he wasn't trying to demean my choice in subscribing to organized religion.

It makes me wonder if I sometimes tell a story so many times it becomes old and memorized to the point where I go on auto-pilot and don't pay attention to whether I told all the important parts. Maybe it's kind of like when you copy and paste a sentence, and it doesn't quite fit in its new location. So you delete a word or two and fix the capitalization and punctuation to make it fit without realizing that it still doesn't make sense.

I'm not totally sure how he knows I'm LDS, since we've never talked about it, although I have some guesses. I don't take offense to his choice to reject organized religion. I'm assuming his contempt is general to all organized religions. While I understand it better now, so it's less strange, it's still a bit off that two discussions on exercise have brought in at least a mention of religion. Granted, Yoga has religious roots, but the way it's practiced here in the states is pretty nonreligious in nature.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Now I'll demonstrate the wrong way

Among the many things Wood Badge teaches are diversity, teamwork, and listening.

I had an interesting experience where the staff of a Wood Badge course I'm serving on was going through some training. The goal in these trainings is to be prepared to teach but to also practice the very things we're teaching in order to become a high performing team just in time for the course.

We were in a little bit of a hurry, trying to wrap up in time for some things a few people had to get to, and it had been a long day.

I should also point out that there were several of the staff who had served on one or more courses together previously, and throughout the time we've met together, they are always talking about things that happened in other courses. Most of the time, the Course Director was very good to explain what they were talking about and point out that there shouldn't be any types of insider jokes and discussions. That's part of the diversity thing. If you have to have it explained to you, however, that still makes you feel like an outsider.

Brother Lindsay, who will be serving as the course Senior Patrol Leader was trying to help keep the agenda moving along so we could wrap up. I have to say that he is one of the most interesting, kind, funny people I've ever met and is obviously a wonderful leader. However, he totally blew off some of the core principles we had just barely gone over in his hurry to get through everything.

We were planning ideas for a campfire, and when we got to having some type of spiritual or touching story as the fire is dying down, he pointed at one of the other staff members who happens to be a Bishop and volunteered him to do that piece, and we moved on. Whoa, what just happened? I actually had a story in mind that I was thinking about. It's a dear experience to me, so I didn't want to go blabbing about it, but it would be very applicable in such a situation. I still have a chance to share it, as I'll just talk to the guy in charge of the campfire. I just have to go out of my way to do it now. If it wasn't important to me or if in some way I actually felt like I had been slighted, I'd just blow it off and stew about it.

For me, the incident wasn't a big deal (in spite of my blogging about it now), and doesn't change my opinion of him; it just helps to make me more aware of how hard it is to be on your game all the time. If a man as good as him fails at using the principles we've just barely been talking about, how much more do I need to try to make sure I'm not forgetting the same things? That is part of why we do so many meetings before the course, so we can build relationships with each other before the course starts. It's always a work in progress.

I can totally see where some of the problems arose in the old Wood Badge. There used to be these insider groups that ran all the courses, and there wasn't a good way to get on a staff. It was always just the same group. This led to some inbreeding and stagnation of sorts that put people off. Because of this, they put some rules in place with the current course where once you've been a Course Director, you can no longer serve on a Wood Badge staff, and a certain percentage of every staff has to be comprised of first time staffers. I think this is a good thing, but it doesn't prevent all problems.