Friday, May 31, 2013

Duck Beach 2013

Another memorable Memorial Day weekend has come and gone at Duck Beach.  There seemed to be fewer people at Duck this year, which could mean that more people got married, or that fewer people thought it worth the time and money to venture forth to the Outer Banks.  Whatever the case, those who did participate enjoyed it to the fullest, and some may have even graduated with the proverbial diploma (e.g. a significant other).

This was my senior year at Duck, since I have made the trek every year since 2010.  As usual, I enjoyed the friendship, the socializing, the beach volleyball, the ocean, the beautiful surroundings, and most everything about the experience.  This year, I particularly enjoyed the Sunday worship services at the Kitty Hawk Junior High School.  In commemoration of those who have so valiantly fought to preserve our liberties, we sang America the Beautiful as a closing hymn.  Having temporarily left the majestic purple mountains of the West to appreciate the spacious skies of the East it occurred to me that it remains our duty to "crown" the good of America with brotherhood.  This verse from the hymn brought to mind a principle taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith:

"'Friendship is one of the grand fundamental principles of 'Mormonism'; [it is designed] to revolutionize and civilize the world, and cause wars and contentions to cease and men to become friends and brothers" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 316).

Certainly there are still flaws to be mended, and gold to be refined in America in order for all success to be nobleness and every gain divine.  But as we sang this closing hymn I felt that God has indeed shed his grace on this nation.  I also got to wear shorts to church which definitely augmented the sense of joy that I felt.

While I am on the topic of friendship and brotherhood, I should add that some friends and I took a short detour to the Wright Brothers Monument in Kitty Hawk.  I do not doubt that the brothers Wilbur and Orville were enlightened in the process of invention, but I couldn't help but think that the environment in which they worked acted as a catalyst to creativity.  The beautiful blue sky, the green foliage, the view of the ocean, the myriad birds, the fresh breezes... everything seemed combined together to inspire heart and mind.  In other words, had these brothers lived in a barren wasteland, we might still be waiting for the invention of the airplane.

All in all, Duck Beach 2013 was a success.  Those who have participated can attest that it is not just a Mormon version of Jersey Shore (as one documentary appears to have depicted it).  I met many lively and interesting people, and there was much that is virtuous, lovely, of good report and praiseworthy to appreciate and record.


Monday, May 20, 2013

In the Presence of Heavenly Beings

"I believe we move and have our being in the presence of heavenly messengers and of heavenly beings. We are not separate from them. We begin to realize more and more fully, as we become acquainted with the principles of the Gospel, as they have been revealed anew in this dispensation, that we are closely related to our kindred, to our ancestors, to our friends and associates and co-laborers who have preceded us into the spirit world. We cannot forget them; we do not cease to love them; we always hold them in our hearts, in memory, and thus we are associated and united to them by ties that we can not break, that we can not dissolve or free ourselves from. If this is the case with us in our finite condition, surrounded by our mortal weaknesses, shortsightedness, lack of inspiration and wisdom from time to time, how much more certain it is and reasonable and consistent to believe that those who have been faithful, who have gone beyond and are still engaged in the work for the salvation of the souls of men, the opening of the prison doors to them that are bound and proclaiming liberty to the captives who can see us better than we can see them; that they know us better than we know them. They have advanced; we are advancing; we are growing as they have grown; we are reaching the goal that they have attained unto; and therefore, I claim that we live in their presence, they see us, they are solicitous for our welfare, they love us now more than ever. For now they see the dangers that beset us; they can comprehend better than ever before, the weaknesses that are liable to mislead us into dark and forbidden paths. They see the temptations and the evils that beset us in life and the proneness of mortal beings to yield to temptation and to wrong doing; hence their solicitude for us and their love for us and their desire for our well being must be greater than that which we feel for ourselves. I thank God for the feeling that I possess and enjoy and for the realization that I have, that I stand, not only in the presence of Almighty God, my Maker and Father, but in the presence of His Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Savior of the world; and I stand in the presence of Peter and James, (and perhaps the eyes of John are also upon us and we know it not); and that I stand also in the presence of Joseph and Hyrum and Brigham and John, and those who have been valiant in the testimony of Jesus Christ and faithful to their mission in the world, who have gone before. When I go I want to have the privilege of meeting them with the consciousness that I have followed their example, that I have carried out the mission in which they were engaged as they would have it carried out; that I have been as faithful in the discharge of duty committed to me and required at my hand as they were faithful in their time, and that when I meet them I shall meet them as I met them here, in love, in harmony, in unison and in perfect confidence that I have done my duty as they have done theirs." (Conference Report, April 1916, p.3)

- Joseph F. Smith

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Unspeakable Gift

A description of the effects of the Holy Ghost:

“[His influence] quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands and purifies all the natural passions and affections; and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires, develops, cultivates and matures all the fine-toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings and affections of our nature. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness and charity. It develops beauty of person, form and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation and social feeling. It invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens, and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being” (Key to the Science of Theology, 9th ed. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1965], p. 101).  

- Parley P. Pratt

(See also, Elder Jay E. Jensen The Unspeakable Gift)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

As If Ye Were Present: Reflections on the Book of Mormon

"And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received- Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.  And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written-" (D&C 84:54-57)

Today I finished reading The Book of Mormon in Portuguese.  I was not surprised to discover that The Book of Mormon is also true in Portuguese.  Some people, particularly those who come from Brazil or Portugal (or who served missions in those countries), might even argue that the book is more true in Portuguese, while others, in Spain and in other Spanish speaking countries, might claim that it is most true in Spanish.  (There might be some truth to both of these claims, especially considering the audiences that many of The Book of Mormon prophets had in mind while doing the work of engraving.)  I have also read The Book of Mormon in English, Spanish, French and Italian, but I have not as yet read The Book of Mormon in any Native American language.  I imagine that The Book of Mormon is also true in those languages.  My copies of The Book of Mormon in Arabic and in Hebrew are gathering dust on the shelves, and I will probably read The Book of Mormon in the original reformed Egyptian before I finish either of those.  No matter the language in which it was composed or into which it has been translated, The Book of Mormon is the word of God, a marvelous work and a wonder.  No matter how many times or how thoroughly one studies The Book of Mormon, there is always something to rediscover or to discover for the first time.

Not long ago the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that the 150 millionth copy of The Book of Mormon had been printed, and Wikipedia indicates that The Book of Mormon has been translated into 90 + different languages.  Many will recall President Benson's invitation to flood the earth with The Book of Mormon, and his promise to those who engage in regular and prayerful study of the book:

“I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness” (Ensign, May 1980, p. 67).

Certainly it is important not to neglect the living prophets, The Bible (See, Elder Ballard, The Miracle of the Bible) or the rest of the Standard Works, but there is something unique about The Book of MormonMore recently President Gordon B. Hinckley reiterated the importance of The Book of Mormon,  and Elder Neal A. Maxwell proffered this challenging statement regarding The Book of Mormon

"There is so much more in the Book of Mormon than we have yet discovered. The book’s divine architecture and rich furnishings will increasingly unfold to our view, further qualifying it as “a marvelous work and a wonder” (Isaiah 29:14). As I noted from this pulpit in 1986, “The Book of Mormon is like a vast mansion with gardens, towers, courtyards, and wings (Book of Mormon Symposium, 10 October 1986)."

On another occasion, Elder Maxwell stated "I am glad the book will be with us 'as long as the earth shall stand.' I need and want additional time. For me, towers, courtyards, and wings await inspection. My tour of it has never been completed. Some rooms I have yet to enter, and there are more flaming fireplaces waiting to warm me. Even the rooms I have glimpsed contain further furnishings and rich detail yet to be savored. There are panels inlaid with incredible insights and design and decor dating from Eden. There are also sumptuous banquet tables painstakingly prepared by predecessors which await all of us. Yet, we as Church members sometimes behave like hurried tourists, scarcely venturing beyond the entry hall to the mansion."

I too need and want additional time.  Certain scholars, such as Grant Hardy and M. Joseph Spencer  have devoted much time and diligent effort to a serious study of the Book of Mormon.  But one need not be a trained scholar to understand, appreciate, and most importantly to apply the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that are contained in The Book of MormonEven a child can understand.  The Prophet Joseph Smith once declared that "I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”

While finishing the record of his father, the prophet Moroni boldly declared: "Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing." (Mormon 8:35)  Moroni witnessed the destruction of his entire civilization.  He also abridged the record of Ether, an earlier prophet who had witnessed the destruction of his entire civilization.  Like other prophets of The Book of Mormon, Moroni also witnessed future calamities.  Like Isaiah, Moroni stood in the midst of past, present and future destruction, witnessing and warning of the causes thereof, and teaching the universal need for repentance.  

One might wonder, if the Nephites had access to the record of the Jaredites, why weren't they able to avoid the same fate as the Jaredites?  One might also wonder if Moroni, a survivor of a once thriving civilization, a historian who was intimately familiar with the destruction of an earlier civilization, and a witness to future calamities, might have something to say to us now, as if he were present?  What might he say?  In January of 1831 for the occasion of a conference of the Church, the Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation in which the Lord declared: "And if ye seek the riches which it is the will of the Father to give unto you, ye shall be the richest of all people, for ye shall have the riches of eternity; and it must needs be that the riches of the earth are mine to give; but beware of pride, lest ye become as the Nephites of old." (D&C 38:39)  The Jaredites, the Nephites and the early saints received ample warnings, and those same warnings have continued in modern times (see President Benson, Beware of Pride, and President Uchtdorf, Pride and the Priesthood).   

After Moroni had witnessed the destruction of his family and his entire civilization, and after having abridged the record of the destruction of the Jaredites, he supposed that he would not have written more.  What more could this lone, wandering Nephite have left to write for future generations?  What was Moroni inspired to write about, and why?  Why not just end The Book of Mormon with the account of his father?  After all, he was alone, hunted by the Lamanites, and the custodian of many records. Why include the Jaredite record? and why include his own record?

Moroni chose a few more things to include in his own record, writing for the benefit of the future generations of Lamanites.  His own account includes a record of Christ's choosing and ordaining of the twelve among the Nephites, the conferral of the gift of the Holy Ghost, the ordination of priests and teachers, the administration of the sacrament bread and wine, the principles of repentance, faith in Christ, baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the workings of the Spirit in the Church of Jesus Christ.  Then, Moroni chose to include a timeless sermon of his father to the Nephites who were the peaceable followers of Christ, on faith, hope and charity.  Of all the sermons and of all the records that Moroni had to choose from (and certainly there were many) why did he choose to include this one? 

The conclusion of The Book of Mormon includes teachings on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the purity of little children, charity, and another epistle of Mormon to his son Moroni.  Mormon knew that if the Nephites perished, they would perish like the Jaredites (Moroni 9:23), but this did not excuse Moroni from finishing the work that he was called to do:

"My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever.  And may the grace of God the Father, whose throne is high in the heavens, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who sitteth on the right hand of his power, until all things shall become subject unto him, be and abide with you forever. Amen." (Moroni 9:25-26)

What more beautiful letter has a father ever written to his son?  In the final chapter of The Book of Mormon Moroni testifies of the truthfulness of the record, of Jesus Christ, of His grace, and of the gifts of the Holy Ghost.  He invites all to study and ponder the message of The Book of Mormon, and to ask God the Eternal Father, with a sincere heart and real intent, if these things are not true, and to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him.

I love The Book of Mormon.  In any of the 90 + languages into which it has been translated, it is true.  I am grateful for any additional time to repent and to remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments, to do according to that which is written, and to feast upon the words of Christ that The Book of Mormon contains:

"Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy, hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your souls delight in fatness." (2 Ne. 9:51)

Something in the Way: A Nod to The Beatles

Lately there have been a lot of songs by The Beatles coming to my mind.  There are only a few of their songs that I have learned to strum on the guitar: Blackbird, Yesterday, Norwegian Wood... but these Liverpool legends produced many musical masterpieces that are worthy of note.  While I can't possibly list all of them, I did begin to compile a list of some of my favorite songs, and I included a few that I had never heard before.

The Beatles are the best selling band in history, with Love Me Do as one of their earliest hits.  P.S. I Love You was also an early hit.  So simple. So pure.  Of course, Beatlemania occurred before I was born, but it is the kind of music that stands the test of time.  I have a lot more research to do before I can consider myself a true connaisseur of The Beatles, but in the mean time, here is the list that I have begun to compile...

Favorites (thus far):

- Something
- While My Guitar Gently Weeps
- I Will
- Here, There and Everywhere
- Golden Slumbers
- In My Life
- Here Comes the Sun
- Till There Was You
- Two of Us
- Michelle
- I Saw Her Standing There
- And Your Bird Can Sing
- All Things Must Pass
- Soldier of Love
- I'll Follow the Sun
- I'm Looking Through You
- If I Fell
- I Should Have Known Better
- For You Blue
- For No One
- And I Love Her
- All My Lovin'
- Across the Universe
- A Taste of Honey

I would also include George Harrison's My Sweet Lord and Apple Scruffs, and Lennon's Beautiful Boy

Here is a list of a few more Beatles songs that I enjoy (without the links):

- I'm in Love
- Tomorrow Never Knows
- Love You Too
- Love of the Loved
- Long, Long, Long
- Lovely Rita Meter Maid
- Revolution
- Tip of My Tongue
- Hide Your Love Away
- We Can Work it Out
- Wait
- Things We Said Today
- Old Brown Shoe
- One and One is Two
- No Reply
- Not Guilty
- Penny Lane
- Paper Back Writer
- One after 909
- There's a Place
- The Word
- The Night Before
- The Inner Light
- The Honey Moon Song
- The Fool on the Hill
- That Means a Lot
- Taking a Trip to Carolina
- You're Gonna Lose that Girl
- Yer Blues
- Words of Love
- What You're Doing
- Watching Rainbows
- To Know Her is to Love Her
- Sure to Fall in Love With You
- Some Other Guy
- Rain
- Slow Down
- Searchin'
- Sun King
- Like Dreamers Do
- Junk
- Julia
- Johnny B. Goode
- I'm Only Sleeping
- I want you
- I want to tell you
- Hold me tight
- Hey Jude
- Let it be
- Hey Bulldog
- Her Majesty
- Heather
- Girl
- Don't bother me
- Day Tripper
- Dig a Pony
- Cry baby cry
- Can't buy me love
- Because
- Bad to me
- Baby it's you
- Ask me why
- Act naturally
- World without love
- A Hard Days Night

Which are your favorite Beatles songs?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Night at the Opera

Last night I attended the Utah Valley Symphony production of "Opera's Greatest Hits" at the Covey Center for the Arts in Provo.  There is another event tonight, and tickets are only $10 or $12.  Perhaps it goes without saying, but this performance was a musical delight, a treat for the ears as well as the soul.

During the symphony, the conductor gave brief explanations to introduce each of the songs.  These background sketches made the songs more meaningful and more enjoyable, and the musicians were superb.  There will be a few different songs performed tonight, but some of the opera pieces from last night's performance include: Der Rosenkavalier (R. Strauss), Musetta's Waltz, La Bohème (G. Puccini), Hai già vinta la causa, The Marriage of Figaro (W.A. Mozart), Ombra mai fu, Serse (G.F. Handle), La ci darem la mano, Don Giovanni (W.A. Mozart), La donna è mobile, Rigoletto (G. Verdi), Nabucco overture (G. Verdi), Sous le dôme épais (Lakmé) (L. Delibes), Una furtiva lagrima, L'elisir d'amore (G. Donizetti), O mio babbino caro, Gianni Schicchi (G. Puccini), March from "The Love of the Three Oranges" (S. Prokofieff), Bei Männern, Magic Flute (W.A. Mozart), Papageno, Papagena, Magic Flute (W.A. Mozart).

And it looks like tonight there will be a rendition of L'amour est un oiseau rebelle from Bizet's Carmen...

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Moab: The Maiden Voyage

Last Friday I joined some friends for a weekend mountain biking trip to Moab, Utah.  Although I have always enjoyed bike riding, and although I had been to Moab a couple of times before, I had as yet never put the two together.  After saving up for a bike, I finally decided to make the purchase and take her on her maiden voyage.  And there was much rejoicing.

Thanks to the generosity of Grandpa Bob in reserving a camp site, a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and olives, and a snug shammy, I was prepared to gallivant through the trails and slick rock of DinoFlow and EKG.  With a little help from more experienced riders (as well as a borrowed pair of sun glasses and shared sunscreen), I soon learned to navigate the ups and downs, the twists and turns.  Along the approximately ten miles of terrain I had plenty of time to enjoy the beauty of the desert and to contemplate the life metaphors that such a journey brought to mind.  I will spare you an elaboration of these metaphors, but perhaps at least one is worth noting.  As is to be expected when mountain biking, I took a couple of spills, but my third crash was the most fortunate because I narrowly avoided plummeting into a menacing patch of cacti.  As I picked up my bike and glanced around at the impressive array of thorns and needles, all I could think at that moment, and now, is "Thank you God".

After enjoying some gnocchi at an Italian Restaurant, returning to camp, and rinsing off, we all decided to rendezvous at Dead Horse Point before heading home.  The view from Dead Horse Point was nothing short of spectacular.  The immensity of the panorama caused me to stand in awe at the magnificence of God's creations.  I was happy to discover that I was not alone in my revery when I overheard a conversation in French taking place a few yards away from where I was standing.  After I introduced myself to a man and his family from Marseilles, he explained to me they had explored many places in Southern Utah, but the view from Dead Horse Point was more spectacular than he could have imagined.  This good man was visibly moved by the glory of creation before him, which amplified the sense of awe that I had also felt.

All of this caused me to ponder the words of the Psalmist: "when I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou has ordained; What is man, that thou are mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?" (Psalms 8:3-4) Well could I echo the words that Nephi recorded when he overheard his father Lehi giving praise to God: "Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God Almighty! Thy throne is high in the heavens, and thy power, and goodness, and mercy are over all the inhabitants of the earth; and, because thou art merciful, thou wilt not suffer those who come unto thee that they shall perish!" (1 Ne. 1:14) 

After this experience, I think there could be some truth to the bumper sticker that I have seen on occasion: "London - Paris - Rome - Tokyo - Berlin - Beijing - MOAB".