December 31, 2013

Mix of new & classic Christmas favorites

A holiday mix of some new favorites from the Piano Guys, Lindsey Stirling, Josh Groban, Celine Dion, J. Wride, Jon Lajoie, Vocal Point, and Carrie Underwood, along with a bunch of Christmas classics.

December 29, 2013

Out of the mouths of babes

Lydie stole the tablet while I was reading the scriptures. In the app I use, you can easily highlight things. When I took the tablet back, this is what she'd highlighted (the yellow underline is what stood out to me).


Then I gave it back to her and said, "Are you trying to tell me something?" Her little hands moved over the tablet and when I took it back the second time, she'd highlighted this.

Maybe just a coincidence. Maybe not. Regardless, it was a cute moment I don't want to forget.

December 05, 2013

Our unconventional, improvised, dirt cheap Christmas tree


You have to get a little creative when your apartment is 550 square feet. 

We found a roll of green foil at Honks for 88 cents, used some packing tape to get the lights up, and hung the ornaments on the lights. 

Our kids like it, so we'll see how long it survives. :)



August 19, 2013

31 Favorite Mormon talks


My cousin at the
LDS Conference Center
in Salt Lake City
One of my very best friends recently asked me for a list of my personal favorite LDS talks. I really can't recall a single LDS general conference talk, Ensign article or BYU speech that wasn't at least a little awesome. But here are links to particularly memorable ones. Most you can watch or listen to online; some you'll have to read.

I plan on adding to the list as time goes. Recommendations?
  1. Absolute Truth (a letter to a disbeliever) by Spencer W. Kimball (1977)
  2. Why Not Now? by Neal A. Maxwell (1974)
  3. The Inconvenient Messiah by Jeffrey R. Holland (1982)
  4. Love is Not Blind (thoughts on Ambiguity) by Bruce C. Hafen (1979)
    • Love is not blind; that is the last thing it is. Love is bound; and the more it is bound, the less it is blind.
  5. A Balanced Life by Brent L. Top (2005)
  6. The Looseness of Zion by Leonard Arrington (1974)
  7. School Thy Feelings, O My Brother by Thomas S. Monson (2009)
    • No one can make us angry. It is our choice.
  8. Forgiveness by Gordon B. Hinckley (2005)
  9. His Grace is Sufficient by Brad Wilcox (2011)
    • I have born-again Christian friends who say to me, “You Mormons are trying to earn your way to heaven.”
      I say, “No, we are not earning heaven. We are learning heaven.”
      ... They ask me, “Have you been saved by grace?”
      I answer, “Yes. Absolutely, totally, completely, thankfully—yes!”
  10. The Only True and Living Church by Boyd K. Packer (1971)
  11. None Were With Him by Jeffrey R. Holland (2009)
  12. Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall by Dallin H. Oaks (1994)
  13. Pride and the Priesthood by Dieter F. Uchtdorf (2010) 
    • We don’t discover humility by thinking less of ourselves; we discover humility by thinking less about ourselves.
  14. Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence by Jeffrey R. Holland (1999)
  15. "Lord, I Believe" by Jeffrey R. Holland (2013)
  16. O Be Wise by M. Russell Ballard (2006)
    • ... there is no such thing as "done."
  17. Good, Better, Best by Dallin H. Oaks (2007)
  18. How Do I Love Thee? by Jeffrey R. Holland (2000)
  19. Remember Lot's Wife by Jeffrey R. Holland (2009)
  20. A Robe, A Ring and A Fatted Calf by Jeffrey R. Holland (1984)
  21. The Loneliness of Leadership by Gordon B. Hinckley (1969)
  22. Of Things That Matter Most by Dieter F. Uchtdorf (2010)
  23. The Tender Mercies of the Lord by David A. Bednar (2005)
  24. Timing by Dallin H. Oaks (2002)
  25. The Atonement: All for All by Bruce C. Hafen (2004)
  26. Beauty for Ashes by Bruce C. Hafen (1990)
  27. Forget Me Not by Dieter F. Uchtdorf (2011)
    • While understanding the “what” and the “how” of the gospel is necessary, the eternal fire and majesty of the gospel springs from the “why.”
  28. You Matter to Him by Dieter F. Uchtdorf (2011)
    • The Lord doesn’t care at all if we spend our days working in marble halls or stable stalls... God knows that some of the greatest souls who have ever lived are those who will never appear in the chronicles of history.
  29. Spiritual Preparedness: Start Early and Be Steady by Henry B. Eyring (2005)
    • ... great faith has a short shelf life.
  30. Faith to Forgive Grievous Harms by James R. Rasband (2012)
  31. Revelation by Dallin H. Oaks (1981)

July 21, 2013

Some search the web and find faith

*My thoughts after reading Some Mormons Search the Web and Find Doubt by Laurie Goodstein of the NY Times. Goodstein recently interviewed a former prominent LDS church leader in Sweden who's now questioning his faith. I met the leader on my mission, and shared a Christmas with him and his family.


First a personal story...

My teenage world was rocked. I had just read this in The Book of Mormon:

"And the Lord saw that the brother of Jared had fallen to the earth; and the Lord said unto him: Arise, why hast thou fallen?"

"And he saith unto the Lord: I saw the finger of the Lord, and I feared lest he should smite me; for I knew not that the Lord had flesh and blood."source

Flesh and blood. 

When was this written again?

Centuries before Jesus got flesh and blood.

I don't know if I started sweating, but I strongly recall the floor falling out.

This book is as true as they come. Could something so right be so chronologically wrong?

I prayed.

God help me! I don't want to throw away what I know and love because of one stupid verse. 

Nothing major happened. But I felt impressed to read on. When I did, I felt like I'd dropped the middle 'm' in Mormon. M. O. R. O. N.

Just a few verses later...

 "Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh."source

That was not the first and definitely not the last time I have felt like an idiot for jumping to conclusions. However, I'm beginning to go through a healthier thought process when I read something I don't expect in scripture or history or the crapshoot called the internet.

Different. Weird. Hmmmmmmmmmmm. Slightly. Uncomfortable.

My first wave of thoughts still isn't much more than knee-jerk emotion. However, my knee's gone a little numb after years of surprises. I'm not flipping out at the slightest sight of cognitive dissonance. Now, it's even a bit of a welcome guest. It reminds me how much I have to learn.

When I'm feeling ambitious, a more critical wave of thoughts hits.

Am I reading this right? Understanding this right? Is this true or false or somewhere else on the scatter plot? Who wrote this again? Can I trust this? What does anyone gain by me believing this? What else can I read about this? 

There's another wave. I'll get there soon.

It feels like nowadays it's tempting to not even get past the first wave of emotional response. We like, dislike, furrow our eyebrows, shed a tear, LOL, ROFL, and get on with our lives. Sometimes not having learned a thing. Sometimes that's totally fine. Sometimes that's not. In important matters of faith, that's definitely not.

If you really want to understand a religion (Mormon or other), no casual reading of an article or glance at a meme or view of a YouTube video will get you far.

I recently read an article in the New York Times about someone I met while I lived in Sweden. In fact, I spent a Christmas with the Mattsson's. A delightful family. The article says Hans Mattsson has some doubts about his faith. He's read some things from Mormon history he didn't know about before. He's unsure what to make of it. That's fair.

But what isn't fair is how the article lacks a balance of perspective. If it were an editorial or a blog, fine. But not as news.

While "some Mormons search the web and find doubt," there are others who search the web and find faith. Why not interview one of those folks too? There are plenty to choose from. Interview my brother, interview countless of my good friends, interview me.

We've heard concerns like those mentioned in that article time and time again and we still believe what we believe. Let at least one of us share how the internet has helped our faith.

Okay, I gladly volunteer.

First thing that comes to mind based on the types of questions in the NY Times article: FairLDS.org
Substance without glam, a gold mine of non-emotionally charged perspective on the top things people tend to complain about. There's a whole heap of history and herstory out there. Some things are more accurate than others. When concerns are real, there's usually more to theirstory. Don't assume you're the first person to ask the question.

I won't attempt to address every question. You really need to check out that site. However, I'll take up a common theme. It has to do with perceived imperfections of Mormon leaders past and present.

Let me ask you a question.

Which would you prefer...

A world where no one makes mistakes because everyone is micromanaged by a control freak?

Or, a world that allows freedom of choice and where everyone makes mistakes, even prophets?

The Mormon belief is we thankfully live in the latter. It's a great but messy place. We all need grace. There is only one poster child for Christianity and that's Jesus. One of my favorite speakers describes humanity this way:

"We have all seen a toddler learn to walk. He takes a small step and totters. He falls. Do we scold such an attempt? Of course not. What father would punish a toddler for stumbling? We encourage, we applaud, and we praise because with every small step, the child is becoming more like his parents."

"Now... compared to the perfection of God, we mortals are scarcely more than awkward, faltering toddlers."source  

No exceptions.

A messenger doesn't need to be perfect for a message to be from God.

Second thing: LDS.org
Did you know you can search official church websites for any doctrine? Scour a huge database of talks by modern-day prophets and apostles and in entirety all canonized Mormon scripture in dozens of languages? Amazing. All you have to do is give us your email address, invite the missionaries over, or pay a small fee. Of course I'm kidding. Everyone gets the same access, no strings attached. You can also find when and where you can attend church the world over (which by the way, any curious George or skeptical Sally is totally welcome to do). Amazing when traveling or moving. I belong to a worldwide church family and the internet reminds me of that. Yay!

Third thing: BYU Speeches
Golly, golly, golly. Yes, it deserves a triple-golly. If you're Christian and you haven't heard talks like this, you're sorely missing out. Dozens of other gems for honest seekers of truth.

Fourth thing: Mormon Messages
For a quick pick-you-upper. Pretty inspiring. You can't help but be a better dad after watching things like this.

The list goes on.

All and all the internet has helped my faith. I've read many things that felt aimed at attacking my faith, but after further consideration, I've thankfully been able to sort things out enough to not let what I don't fully understand keep me from enjoying what I hold dear.

This leads me to the third wave of thoughts that comes when my world view is brought in to question.

What does God think of this? And how can I know?

Part of the answer has always been prayer. God knows everything, so why not ask Him? I get answers. You can too. I still have questions. But I try to remember this...

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord."

"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."source

I am content to take some questions to the grave. I don't need to know or understand everything right now. For the questions of faith that really matter, right here and now, I feel the Mormon faith is giving me what I need.

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March 25, 2013

Thoughts on gay marriage

My day started out very simple and without too much thought of anything of great consequence. I went to work. I came home. Bryce and I romped around for a while. Then, just before dinner, Heather shared an interesting article with me. I read through it as I enjoyed some leftover lasagna. There wasn't much of a chance for anything to digest before it was time to take Bryce sledding for- let's be honest- hopefully the last time this season. (Spring come soon, please!)

For the most part, the article was out of my mind and we had a good, carefree time. The melt-freeze-melt-freeze-melt-freeze-again snow did wonders for Mr. Mu, giving us some great rides but shoddy snowballs.


We came in a little late and by the time teeth-brushing, diaper-changing, story-telling, song-singing, prayer-praying, hugging and kissing were over, it was about 45 minutes past bedtime. Hopefully Bryce will forgive us someday.


Lately, Heather and I have filled a lot of that quiet time after Bryce is down unplugging from reality and watching Merlin on Netflix. That would've been fun, but that's not what happened tonight.


We've been getting these emails from protectmarriage.com. I can't say we read them very thoroughly. They usually say something like, marriage is important, it's under attack, and we need money for the legal battle to defend Prop 8 in the Supreme Court. We know that and we have kind of tuned them out because of the redundancy of it all (a little like the emails we used to get from the Romney campaign). It's still nice to get little reminders here and there about an issue we do really care about. I guess tomorrow is a pretty big day. The Supreme Court will finally hear oral arguments on the matter. The email we got today had what you could call a sneak peak of what Andy Pugno, General Counsel for Protect Marriage, will tell the judges tomorrow. When I last checked the video had only two hundred views and two of them were mine. I suppose many people have begun to check out of the conversation.


For a refresher, I went to lds.org to remind myself of what the Mormon church has to say about same-sex marriage. What I found resonated with my core.  This part in particular struck a chord:

"The Church has advocated for rights for same-sex couples regarding “hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches.”7 In Salt Lake City, for example, the Church supported ordinances aimed at protecting gay residents from discrimination in housing and employment."

I also revisited an interview of Elder Oaks and Wickman. I found the answer to this question very compelling: "Let’s say my 17-year-old son comes to talk to me and, after a great deal of difficulty trying to get it out, tells me that he believes that he’s attracted to men — that he has no interest and never has had any interest in girls. He believes he’s probably gay. He says that he’s tried to suppress these feelings. He’s remained celibate, but he realizes that his feelings are going to be devastating to the family because we’ve always talked about his Church mission, about his temple marriage and all those kinds of things. He just feels he can’t live what he thinks is a lie any longer, and so he comes in this very upset and depressed manner. What do I tell him as a parent?"


I couldn't help but consider how that conversation would go between me and any of my kids. I couldn't think about that long before recalling the stories shared on mormonsandgays.org.


It's getting late and Heather is being really patient with me still being up (sleep is a rare commodity with a newborn, so I'll try to finish up quickly).

 
My surfing took me a couple more places, but the most interesting was a little video, Attacked by Tolerance. The thing that fascinated me most was how quickly its comments evolved into a conversation very similar to the one shown in the documentary-- something I've seen echoed time and time again, with article after article on the issue. Something I half suspect will happen to my blog now that I've mentioned the words "gay marriage". This is a deeply personal issue because it has to do with peoples' beliefs about what is right and what is wrong. It's a tough conversation to bring up with friends, let alone strangers.


However, if there's anything I've learned from my relationships with others, it's that open, honest and respectful communication is the only way to a successful home, workplace, and community. When people share how they really feel about something, they give you a gift, especially when their experience and perspective differ from your own. They open you up to a world beyond yourself-- a world worth living.

I am a Mormon and fully support the stance modern-day prophets have shared concerning gay marriage. I am friends with several people who experience same-sex attraction (some who act on the inclination, others who don't). I am in no place to judge their personal character, just as they are in no place to judge mine. I love them and have learned much from them. I have felt love and respect from them.  It is impossible to say who started the civility, but together, we maintain it.


You may also be interested in:

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