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Monday, December 29, 2014

Jesus Christ = Potential

Probably just more than a week ago, I got a bit of a wake-up call.  I can imagine the Lord just waiting for me to come to a certain realization, perhaps thinking, "He'll clue in soon enough.  I'll be there to confirm it for Him through the Holy Ghost when He sees it."

In my efforts to come to be closer to my Heavenly Father and my Savior, Jesus Christ, I have been focusing so much on emphasizing the fact that God is our Father that I had been, unintentionally making a huge mistake.  Somewhere in my mind I was... diminishing? Is that the word? Or maybe a lack of emphasis? Sure, I'll say it that way.  There was a lack of emphasis on the Godhood of God, our Heavenly Father.  Somewhere in my subconscious I had unintentionally induced an insufficient weight on the importance of the concept that you can say it both ways: "God is our Father" and "Our Father is God".  Honestly, I think if both of those concepts are applied and thought of properly in our minds and hearts, it really is, likely, the most beautiful, comforting, empowering and joyful of all truths.  What I want to focus on, with this post, is what His status as God makes possible for us as His children through Christ.

So this one, number three, is Jesus Christ = Potential

I was going to pick possibility, but the definition of potential fits my train of thought better: "The inherent ability or capacity for growth, development, or coming into being."

Oh man I love that!  Especially the part where it says inherent!  Remember this for later.

I'll relate to the potential part of this now.  The beauty of the Atonement of Jesus Christ is that it allows us to be forgiven, healed, cleansed, changed and empowered.  His merits compensate for the effects of the our bad choices, His mercy, in turn, allows us to be forgiven and healed and His grace allows us to be changed, empowered and to eventually become like God, to truly reach our divine potential.  It truly is infinite!  I love the way Dallin H. Oaks put it. "The repenting sinner must suffer for his sins, but this suffering has a different purpose than punishment or payment.  Its purpose is change."

Change for the repentant sinner AND for times when suffering and weaknesses are not as a result of things that we are or are not their doing.  The Atonement of Christ takes us, miraculously, to the point of forgiveness (when we choose repentance), healing and cleansing as well as to the point of changing our ability and nature so that what we can do and who we can become is literally limitless, through His grace.

Speaking of grace, in 2 Nephi chapter 2 in the Book of Mormon there's a part in verse 8 that says "no flesh can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, AND mercy, AND grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise" [emphasis added].  I love that this verse emphasizes that He had the capacity to provide the merits, mercy AND grace needed to live the way He did and Atone for us and thus save us from the effects of the fall, provided we follow His example and apply His Atonement for us in our lives.

Please excuse me while I digress a bit to connect this to my next point.  I'm one of those kinds of gamers who gets bored really easily playing the same parts of a game over and over again.  I love games where there are so many different things to do and so much to achieve that it's really easy to almost never encounter the same situation from the same angle/perspective more than a few times, or even once.  With that in mind, for me, the changing power of the Jesus Christ is such a joyous thing for me because, if I follow Him the best I possibly can, His merits and mercy and grace come in and make my potential absolutely limitless, no boundaries of any kind, including mortal perspective.  Referring to the use of the word inherent from earlier, that is what our potential, inherently, really is.

Limitless, because of Jesus Christ.

When full comprehension and understanding of this principle is reached, I can't even imagine, at this point, how full, beautiful, wonderful and blissful our joy will be in the eternities.

But I do know one thing, no matter what the Lord sees fit that I need to experience in this life to get to that point, that state of being, I'll do whatever it takes to get there, because I want to be that happy.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Jesus Christ = Power

So this is my second entry about what Jesus Christ means to me.  I'll get right to the subject matter and go from there.

Second - Power

As I have been trying to learn more about Him, posting about Him on facebook and making Him the focus of my scripture studies, one thing has become more clear to me about Him, His power.  Power over sin and over death.

Power can be a really good thing and a really bad thing, depending on how it's used.  It can be the most effective means of destruction, addiction and evil but it can also be the most effective means of healing, sanctification, edification, and, as is God's design for us, perfection and exaltation.

There was a talk I heard once about the Atonement of Christ that explained God's power and how both He and His Son Jesus Christ got their power.  In modern revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants we learn, in section 29, that God's honor is His power.  The honor the elements of the universe give Him is His power.  How did Christ get this honor?  He earned it!

Let me explain this with the following anecdote.  I have referred to a talk by Brad Wilcox about grace in previous posts, but in His talk, Brad addresses an accusation that many people put on Latter-Day Saints and addresses it with a very thought provoking response.  The accusation is, perhaps paraphrased "you Mormon's think you can just earn your way to heaven."  His response was awesome.  He said "No, we are not earning heaven, we are learning heaven."  We cannot hope in the least, in our weakened mortal condition, to merit anything for ourselves.  We do not earn anything God gives us in this life, we may qualify for it by living like Jesus did and, because of His merits, receive and even deserve good things because of Him, but we do not earn any of it.  We qualify through obedience to receive what He has already purchased with His blood, heart and soul, so we truly have much to be grateful to Him for.

On the other hand, Christ actually lived His life flawlessly.  He was prepared before the world was made to fill His role as our Redeemer, to live in such a way that literally earned Him the power He had to retake His body after He died, and to put Himself in the Authoritative position as the Mediator between the us and the Justice of the Father.  He earned the power, by the way He believed, thought, sacrificed, spoke, and acted (and still does) from moment to moment to be that person for us. The most glorious part of this, to me, is that His power is not just meant to be effective for Him. His entire purpose in living and suffering the way He did was so that He could have the power to save us from our mortal condition!  Even God the Father said, "...this is my work and my glory - the bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."  The whole reason Christ was prepared to earn His power is to give us access to that power, the infinite power of God!

Now, to the man point of this post.  As I just pointed out, we have full access to Jesus' divine power.  So what does that mean?  First, since He is now in a position to act as an advocate for us, we can have His power to receive help directly from God in even the most minute struggles we face, from the little annoyances like loosing our keys, to receiving peace during bigger struggles, like when we or a loved one are suffering from a life threatening condition.  He also can give us the power to forgive and find peace in how we feel towards others.  We have the power to be happy even when things are rough, communicate with our Father in Heaven, be inspired, learn about new ideas and gain new skills, and most importantly, change to be like Him, live with our Father and have the capacity to enjoy the depth of happiness that He does.

Jesus Christ, to me, means the power to change, live, learn and understand, grow and improve, and the two most synonymous concepts in any language, to love and to be happy.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Jesus Christ = Rescue

Introduction:

My Heavenly Father has been taking me through a big spiritual transformation recently.  Currently, He still is.  He has always been trying to teach me how to become like Him and, by doing so, how to be happy and free.  But, for whatever reason, only recently, has the Lord seen fit to show me that I need to go beyond just knowing about Him, about the Savior, having the limited faith that I do, and progress to really having His will for me, His word, His gospel, His peace, His nature, His love, written in the very sinews and fibers of my soul.  It's like He wants me to take the faith I already have and take it to the next level, to not just knowing things in my head and feeling them in my heart, but having it all become ingrained in who I am, really coming to know Him on a personal level.

I remember in a talk called "The Mortal Christ" by Jack R. Christiansen where He mentions the difference between knowing about Jesus vs. knowing Him. He spoke about how it really is such a wonderful, good thing to know about Christ, but that really coming to know Christ as a member of our spiritual family and most importantly as our Savior and Redeemer, is so much better.  We need to come to know Him as our Advocate with the Father in taking upon Himself the pivotal, paramount role of our Savior, Exemplar and Master and Leader.

And that is where I want to introduce my idea behind the title of this entry.  I'll be doing a series of entries about what Jesus Christ means to me in an effort to come to know Him better.  I found out, in the process of preparing the most recent talk I gave in church, that when I prepare something spiritual to share with anyone, Heavenly Father always uses it as an opportunity to teach and transform me in some way, if I seek the Holy Ghost to guide me in what I should say.  I'll try to write this in a way that makes sense not just to members of the LDS church, but to everyone.

First - rescue

When I was preparing my comments about agency for sacrament meeting this last week, there were some things that became a little more clear to me.  One of them was the redemptive role of Jesus in the Father's plan.  While I was serving as a missionary, I read in one dictionary the definition of redeem as "to regain possession of by paying a price... to set free."

Set free from what?

According to modern revelation regarding the fall of Adam and Eve, the effects of the fall are death and being permanently separated from God.  In order for God's plan of us returning to Him to work, we had to be freed somehow from death and from the effects of sin.  There was no way we could make up for our sins on our own, so there had to be a way for God to, as the earlier definition said, "regain possession" of us, His children.

This is where the role of Jesus Christ as our Redeemer comes into play.  The core doctrine and supreme truth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is that God loves us, that He lives, and that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, the Only Begotten Son of God, that He lived a perfect life, showed us a perfect example of how to live in happiness and, in all senses, lived, suffered, died and lives again, with the purpose of rescuing us from the effects of sin and death.

His entire focus His whole life was to carry about the plan of the Father by making a way for us to return to Him.  According to Alma 7:11-13 in The Book of Mormon the Lord "[went] forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind ... And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities ... the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance."

He lived a perfect life, so He didn't need to suffer those things for His own sake.  His thoughts, words, actions and attitude were perfect and flawless.  Taking upon Himself the weight of the total sum of human suffering, death, weakness and sin throws the scales of justice and mercy off balance.  He had to be rewarded somehow for this submission to the Father's will.

President Boyd K. Packer made a great analogy about a debtor and a creditor to illustrated what the life, sufferings and death of Christ give Him the power to do.  To make a long story short, a summary of the analogy goes as follows.  A young man wanted something very much, so much that he willingly took on a great debt to receive it.  The creditor with whom he took on the debt gave him a period of time in which to pay back his debt, setting a firm deadline.  The young man saw the deadline as something so far away that he postponed paying back the debt, so when the due date came, he ended up being trouble.  The creditor came to him and demanded payment.  An argument ensued with the debtor asking for mercy and the creditor demanding justice.  Both laws of mercy and justice needed to be met, but it seemed impossible to satisfy both, until a friend of the debtor came and offered to pay the price of the debt in full and offered to be the new creditor to the young man, in return for His following the new terms of payment he would set.

In the same way, our Lord, Jesus Christ, has taken upon Himself the whole of our spiritual debt to God, our Father, and in return, He asks for us to be allowed to return to God's presence and live in eternal happiness provided we follow His example and, with His help, become like Him.  His life, suffering, death and resurrection give Him the power to plead our cause and rescue us from the full consequence of our sins. By doing this, justice is satisfied because the debt is paid and mercy is satisfied because we can be free.

But, something I'd like to point out here is that He didn't just rescue us from the effects of sin, but from a sinful nature.  From modern scripture we know that "the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father" (emphasis added).

Notice how it does not just talk about doing good things, but becoming a different person, making it so that we want to do good things, simply because it is right.  Part of gaining experience in this life is experiencing what it's like to be enticed by both good and evil things and being given the choice between one of the other, but the Atonement of Christ, His sufferings, death and resurrection, gives us a way to overcome, as The Apostle Elder David A. Bednar said, "both sin and the desire to sin, both the taint and the tyranny of sin."

The purpose behind God's plan was for us not only to follow Him, but want to follow Him.  In Alma 34:34, also from the Book of Mormon, "...that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world." So our desires do not change at death.  Those who don't want to be choose to be good by following the Saviors example now won't want to then either.  What we want is a part of who we are, as Brad Wilcox put it "The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can be cleansed and consoled but that we can be transformed.  Scriptures make it clear that no unclean thing can dwell with God but, brothers and sisters, no unchanged thing will even want to ... the more I understand this wonderful plan of redemption, the more I realize that in the final judgment it will not be the unrepentant sinner begging Jesus, “Let me stay.” No, he will probably be saying, “Get me out of here!” Knowing Christ’s character, I believe that if anyone is going to be begging on that occasion, it would probably be Jesus begging the unrepentant sinner, “Please, choose to stay. Please, use my Atonement—not just to be cleansed but to be changed so that you want to stay.”

So, to wrap up, I will ask the question again.  What was the Atonement of Christ for? What does it rescue us from?  If we apply it to our lives fully, it rescues us from sin, the desire to sin, weakness, and our pains and suffering.  It rescues us from our mortal selves.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Changed by Action

*Sep 14, 2014*
"Upon the cross of Calvary They crucified our Lord And sealed with blood the sacrifice That sanctified his word."

That is the first verse to the sacrament hymn for our ward last week. On subject of hymns, I'm going to start marking my personal hymn book the same way I mark my scriptures, for, as Elder Jay E. Jensen said in General Conference in April, 2007, "...the hymns of the Restoration are, in fact, a course in doctrine!" meaning that they are absolutely literally, scripture! The sacrament hymn we sang today is no different. Last week, for me, one particular phrase stuck out to me in that sacrament hymn, "And sealed with blood the sacrifice that sanctified his word."

To sanctify: To make holy; purify (wordnik.com). If we replace the word sanctified with that definition we get "And sealed with blood the sacrifice that [made holy; purified] his word." Wait, lets focus on the most important part of that, "the sacrifice that [made holy; purified] his word."

There is a good reason why the Bible and Book of Mormon teaches that faith without works is dead. What made His word Holy? His agreement to sacrifice Himself for us, not only in suffering in dying for us, but also in living for us. He was the only man who ever lived what he taught perfectly. His word was made valid, perfect, flawless, complete, holy, absolute, unequivocal truth by means of His works. His supreme sacrifice for all mankind worked as a real power, an actual force of purification, not just for Him, but for all mankind. What He did made Him who He was (two different things, inseparably connected) both before, during and after this life, and gave Him the power He had to do what He did and have total command over His body, mind and the elements.

Now here's the best part about all that. Because He did that, we can to. No that does not mean we will have to or are expected to perform an Atonement for all mankind or anything like that. That would be sacrilegious. What I meant by "that" in "Because He did that" a few sentences ago, is having total command our OUR body, OUR minds and the elements and change who WE are. He is a child of God like the rest of us, so what's to prevent us from becoming like Him? Well, ourselves, but that that's the irony of it all. But the point is that we have, whether we see it or not yet, total power, because of Him, to be purified. When we follow His example, which made Him purified, we ourselves are purified by our ACTIONS through His grace and the power of the Holy Ghost.

So the next time you are faced with a moral decision, just remember that whatever course you choose, it will literally act as a force that either degrades and corrupts you or sanctifies and purifies you and makes your very nature a little more like Christ.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Means to An End

Recently I have been thinking a lot about hows and whys of life's more important things.  Every fast sunday I hear people say "I know this church is true" or "I know the Book of Mormon is true" or the same thing about the Plan of Salvation or modern Prophets or the Law of Chastity or any other number of principles of truth.  When people say this, it invites the Spirit of the Lord because of the truth behind these words.  These things, and many more that could be testified of, are true, good, important, even vital for our salvation.  But I'd like to ask a question that I don't think enough people ask themselves, let alone seek the answer to.  What is the purpose of all of this what is this all for?

With most of my entries so far I've built up to the end statement by providing arguments and referring to thoughts from experts about each topic.  But this time I'm going to get right to the answer and then talk about the how.  I will use a scripture to illustrate the answer though.  Moses 1:39 (a verse most of the active LDS population knows very well) "...This is My work and My glory to bring the pass the immortality and eternal life of man."  I'm going to put my own paraphrasing on that verse and replace the word "man" with "my children."  "...This is My work and My glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of [my children]."  I think God would have us interpret that verse that way because, as the First Presidency and Quorum of the 12 proclaimed in 1973 in this statement "...of all the titles of respect and honor and admiration that are given to Deity, He has asked us to address Him as Father."  So the purpose for all of life, existence, time, space or anything that is real is for our benefit, for us to have a way to get back to our Father, to make us all a happy family again.  I'll probably end up restating this a different way in the end, but that's because of how important it is.
 

I emphasise the word 'family' for a reason.  The picture above is a depiction of a Grand Council in Heaven that we, as Latter-Day Saints, believe was held before this life where the Plan of Salvation was discussed and our Brother Jesus Christ was chosen as our Savior as well as the means to rescue our family, God's family, from the effects of mortality and bring us back to Him.  To illustrate how this happens, I want to list a few things we can do that our Eternal Father has told us will make it possible for us to return to Him.  They are principles that He already knew would create the ideal setting for a family.  After all, He had run a family of billions on these principles and more and, being perfect, He knows what He's doing.  I personally know that if we eventually do them 100% consistently and without hesitation, it will enable Christ's Atonement to save us from our sinful nature and from physical death; and these are all things I have personally seen work when applied with the right attitude.

FORM GOOD HABITS

 Every morning for my brothers and sister and I was generally the same, although there was some slight variation depending on whether or not it was school season, who was or wasn't going to early morning seminary and whether or not we were on vacation among other factors.  On a usual school day we would be woken up by an 'engraved' invitation to family scripture study, even before breakfast.  Then it was getting lunches, backpacks and other things together and ready and then family prayer before we left for the bus, or, in later years took off with my mom for everyone to be dropped off to school.  After school it was straight to homework if we had any.  To my memory we were never allowed any screen time, including the computer (unless we had homework that required the computer), video games (any gaming console was put away during the school year), etc and we figured out other good things to do with our time.  Actually, I think we were allowed one TV show or 1/2 hour of computer time per school night, IF we had homework done.  For me that included practicing piano most days, just jamming to music in my bedroom, playing legos, spending time with my siblings, playing around on our trampoline, spending time with family in other ways, etc.  I remember for a while during my high school years we did family scripture study around the dinner table when my parents would read to us and encourage discussion about what we were reading.

 My parents were VERY strict about rules regarding curfew, driving privileges, dating, media, work and chores and other controversial factors about family life.  I don't remember exactly, but I think my parents had set a curfew of 11pm or just sometime before midnight when we were going out with friends or if we were on a date; and they stuck to it.  I don't remember any of us ever breaking that because we knew if we did there would be what we in our kid/teenage minds considered very harsh consequences.  We were taught that Christ centered relationships were vital and that nothing less would be acceptable, so if we wanted to date someone mom and dad had to either already know who they were or had to meet them in person before the date and it always had to be group dates, NO MATTER WHAT.  If we wanted to date someone who wasn't a member of the church, one group date with them was acceptable but anything more of a relationship after that required that we consistently invite/bring them to church.  My parents, once in a while, did a personal review of all the music that we listened to to make sure it wasn't going to drive the Spirit out of our lives.  I remember them one time taking music and getting rid of it when they found something that was definitely not appropriate.

 I could go on for a long time about family home evening, parent child interviews, 'the talk', family policies about responsibility, jobs, work, resolving conflict, and more, but my main point here is, I think, pretty obvious. My parents were absolutely rigid about keeping up good habits and shunning bad habits.  None of us were ever perfect at this, but if there's one thing I remember more about my childhood than anything else my parents did or taught us, it was consistency in giving our best at living Christ-centered lives.  This was one thing that was vital in holding our family together.

 FORGIVE UNCONDITIONALLY

Whenever we got in fights as kids with each other or anyone else, our parents made sure that we understood the value of forgiveness and what it actually means to forgive.  I remember many times where my parents would sit two of us together and have us look at each other, apologize, hug and then forgive each other, right there on the spot.  Now I understand that many times it's just not quite that simple, but the idea they were trying to ingrain in our heads was that our job was to forgive quickly, sincerely, and unconditionally.  They did not tell us that it was okay to wait until the other person forgave us, or until they other person said "sorry."  The policy was just say you're sorry, what you're sorry for, mean it and forgive, now.  The only down fall on my part regarding that (not something they taught me), was that now I expect everyone to do that, to choose to just stop being angry with me the split second I apologize.  I do realize that everyone's way of dealing with hurt feelings is different, but, if nothing else, this example my parents set for became standard for me that I am still striving every day to measure up to.

REPENT DAILY

Whether in my childhood, teenage years or adulthood, I have always seen from personal experience the results of true and complete repentance.  Some might see this as strange, but one of the biggest blessings Father in Heaven ever gave me was a huge sense of guilt whenever I do something wrong.  Not the "I'm sorry because I got caught" kind of guilt, but the kind that says "I'm sorry because I know that what I did was wrong and I know that doing that thing will only make me and/or other people miserable."  So it's actually kind of a relief in a sense because I know that I feel the right kind of guilt right away, every time I do something wrong and, therefore, it becomes easier, if you could say that, for me to make sure my repentance process complete, that I really do have a full change of heart in the long run as I keep trying to change my bad habits into good ones.

So I can tell anyone from first hand experience that the more we repent, the right way, and seek more to do good, the more we will feel that seemingly incomprehensibly total, complete joy and happiness that comes from a completely clear conscience and a good, solid clear memory of what we have made of ourselves.

Speaking of memory, I can also say from experience that the more good we do, the more honest we are with others and ourselves, the more good we deliberately seek to do, the better our memories become.  I think this is because the clearer our conscience is, the easier it is to think clearly and remember things.  There are some things I have done that I know have affected my ability to remember all the little details of what happened.  Whether it's because I'm nervous talking about it or it just hurts to even think about it or something else, I can never think clearly enough when I'm upset, scared, angry, nervous or otherwise (which, by the way, is one reason why I am terrible performing in front of people). So, repentance daily will get you a long way, even if it means repenting of things we don't know we've done wrong.

DEVELOP YOUR ABILITIES/TALENTS

 Everyone has something good they can contribute to those around them.  God blessed everyone with some gift that would be a benefit to them and to everyone around them.  But that's the key part of it, using our gifts to bless those around us.  As President Monson said "...that which one willingly shares he keeps, while that which he selfishly keeps he loses..."  He did say this regarding testimonies, but I believe that the same applies to our gifts and talents.  If we don't develop them with the intent to grow in our gifts from God, to bless everyone around us, then what good are they?  As Albert Pine said "What we do for ourselves dies with us.  What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal."  What greater joy (besides eternal life) can we have than knowing that something we did, that a gift we shared, had an eternal impact for good on the lives of others?

GET TO KNOW HIM

Knowing about our Heavenly Father is such a wonderful, beautiful, life changing thing, except... well... actually knowing Him.  Understanding what kind of person He really is.  Getting to know Him as a person and becoming familiar with who He is, not just knowing information about Him.  It's similar to knowing about my earthly father as opposed to knowing him.  I could tell you a lot of information about my dad, but I could also tell you a lot of information about politics, pop culture and many other things and it wouldn't mean anything because, even if I know good information about good things,  it just isn't the same as going beyond the 'information' and really become familiar with someone.

Jesus Himself said, to and about the Father in John 17:3 "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent."  Meaning, by extension, that anything else is NOT eternal life.  If we want to become eternal, perfect beings, we need to know someone who is, Himself, perfect and eternal.  Besides, what a better way to have our families, both mortal and eternal, be united than to really know each other.

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I have to say, the more I have thought about God as my Father and kept a familial perspective about everyone I know, the more I feel concern, love and gratitude for them, even if they aren't kind to me.  There's a reason we, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, refer to each other as brothers and sisters;

Because we are literally siblings, children of the same eternal, all-wise, all-knowing, all-loving, patient, kind Father.   We are all a part of the same family!

The whole purpose of the Plan of Salvation, of the Atonement, Prophets, Religion, Church, Commandments, Covenants, Repentance, Obedience, Faith and everything else that is good is plain and simple.

To exalt and glorify the human family, the family of God.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Education, School and What they are Becoming

*Edit* Some of the links in this article have been added after it was published

According to The Lord's scriptures as defined by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, "The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth." (D&C 93:36)  God has given us a commandment to "seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith" (D&C 88:118) as well as to "study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people." (D&C 90:15)

So God expects us to learn, to get an education and gain as much knowledge as we can in this life.  What we have learned and become as people will be all that we can take with us when we die.  I'm going to use one more scripture and then get on to the point of this.  The Lord has even said "...if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come." (D&C 130:19)

The reason I use these scriptures is that they illustrate the meat of what I want to get at.  We need to always be increasing our understanding of the truth about, well, everything.  Math, computer science, geology, language, psychology, chemistry, biology, the arts, nutrition, and a plethora of other subjects are all things we need to eventually come to comprehend fully; but even more importantly, we need to know the truth about it all.  If we are ever to reach our true potential as children of God, to become like Him, to know what He knows and be able to do things that He does, we need to know the truth about everything.

But this is where the problem lies in societies standards of learning today.  I have separated the words 'education' and 'school' in the title because I believe schools today are leaning further away from comprehension of true information and further towards filling our heads with static information for no other purpose than regurgitating it. Does this mean that all schools in any public or private schooling system involving a building is bad?  Good heavens no.  But what it does mean is that most the systems, public and private, are focusing too much on knowing and too little on application.  It takes the whole purpose of learning away.

Lets take a bit to remember what Hitler did to the school system in Austria.  Listen to this.  What this woman is describing is happening all over again in many societies today.  The government is taking far too much control over schools.  There is very little emphasis on learning and more emphasis on memorization.  Many elementary, middle and high schools, and even many colleges, are now treating their students like measuring sticks, statistics, lemmings to be controlled and indoctrinated, forced to agree with whatever the government and school officials see as acceptable.  With society's addiction to having all of life's answers spoon fed to them, there is far more push to read, memorize, regurgitate, repeat, over and over, without any meaning, pushing social interaction and real life application of the truth behind all this knowledge out the window.

Real human interaction is going down the tubes and a mostly inhuman approach to 'schooling' is now becoming more and more widely accepted as the new standards.  Do you know what happens when you take the humanity out of education?  In the first 14 days of school in 2014 there were at least 7 school shootings, and when you compare that to a total of 28 school shootings in 2013 all year, that gives you a better idea how well these schools are NOT doing at encouraging social and moral order.  Is this the fault of the schools?  Not entirely.  Many parents today just don't understand what it means to teach their children moral values.  Either that or they are so 'comfortable' in their own bad habits that they don't bother to teach their children to do any better.

I'm no expert on parenting, but I think it's safe to say, as a general rule of thumb, if parents aren't teaching good values in the home, it will carry over to all other aspects of life.  But that's not the end of it.  When school's punish the good kids for something as stupid as twirling a pencil, chewing a pop-tart into the shape of a gun, exposing a teacher who is abusing their students or any of these things, but at the same time allowing garbage like irresponsible teachers, punishing a kid for standing up to a bully, taking away parents rights to what values their children are taughtinviting students to question the validity of the holocaust and penalizing a teenager for getting evidence about being bullied, it's obvious that the level of bureaucracy behind these schools is suffocating human nature as it is meant to be.

This mom very clearly shows one of hundreds of examples of how far gone too many schools have become.  To illustrated this further, I'll refer to something I learned a while ago in a PC repair course.  RISC and CISC stand for Reduced and Complex Instruction Set Computing, respectively.

RISC would execute instructions for removing a dead light bulb like this.

Step 1: Open Hand.

Step 2: Proceed to move arm up until in contact with light bulb.

Step 3: Close hand around light bulb.

Step 4: Turn hand in a counter clockwise motion.

Step 5: Open hand

Step 6: Turn hand in a clockwise motion.

Step 7: Close hand

Step 8: Repeat steps 3-7 until light bulb is no longer in socket.

CISC would execute the same process like this.

Step 1:Raise hand until in contact with light bulb.

Step 2: Turn counter counter clockwise.

Step 3: Repeat step 2 until light bulb is no longer in socket.

What Common Core is doing is taking the concept behind RISC way too far.  It doesn't teach people the critical thinking skills vital for getting by in the real world.  It's spoon feeding information to people without teaching them to use their brains.  I realize many people feel very strongly about this subject so I'll end it there. But the point is the same.  Many school professionals are caring less and less about what education is supposed to be.

The dictionary defines the word educate as "1. To develop the innate capacities of, especially by schooling or instruction. 2. To provide with knowledge or training in a particular area or for a particular purpose..."

Notice that the first definition denotes school as the means to an end, developing innate capacities.  The whole purpose of school is supposed to be to help people develop skills and abilities and to put knowledge to good use, to use what is learned and truly understand how it applies to the world around us.  Education is supposed to be a way by which we understand the people and the world around us.  As long as schools and parents are treating education like a robotic process, this constitutes, to me, complete and total failure from both parties.

I went through the customary 12 years of public school and was fortunate enough to not be subjected to this mechanical process so unfairly enforced upon far too many people today.  For me there was no indoctrination of how I or anyone else should or shouldn't be allowed to view certain moral standards, no being forced to keep my religion quiet when an opportunity came to answer a question, no teachers enforcing policy over morality, no being punished for doing the right thing even if it made someone else uncomfortable.  I was not forced to stand and recite the pledge of allegiance, but not kept from doing it either.  If I ever had a question about class material my teachers would work with me as much as needed independently when they had time to help me truly understand it instead of just brushing me off and saying "Oh just read it again until you get it" or accusing me of not caring about the class or neglecting studies or saying "you would get it if you studied more."

I attended Colorado Mesa University (previously Mesa State College) for a year and got the same treatment there.  My professors made my education personal, useful and applicable to real life.  After I got married I couldn't afford to go back to any official public college so I educated myself in my chosen fields, music and web development. I poured over W3 Schools, TeamTreeHouse (subscription given to me as a birthday gift), web developer forums, and Youtube. My wife and I bought music theory books from a local college and other music stores and I studied them. I searched arduously for biographies of common practice composers and learned about their styles. I am subscribed to web design and development news letters that inform me of the industries latest updates, practices and technologies.

My main point in all of this?  Education is not nearly as much about learning as it is about comprehending truth. It's about making something of ourselves, interacting with others, sharing ideas, discovering together, exploring, exposing lies and living the truth.

Education goes so much deeper than just memorizing facts and information.  Please, educate yourself.  Do it however you want to.

But if your school isn't assisting in your education the way it was meant to be, it's no good to you.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Choices, not excuses. Self control, not self deception.

Politics, religion, parenting, FDA, NSA, human rights, health care and a plethora of other controversial issues today are so often sources contention, fear, anger, war, neglect, jealousy... the list goes on forever.  My aim with this post is to NAIL one thing that I believe needs to be admitted by all people everywhere in order for there to ever be a chance at peace in the human heart.  I refrain from saying peace on earth because whether or not there is peace on earth, the thing that matters so much more than world peace is peace in the human heart, regardless of our circumstances.  Now I understand that there are a number of important factors that make it much more difficult for some people to manage the choices they make than it is for others, disorders and diagnoses of conditions that limit, not eliminate, but significantly limit the amount of control someone has over their feelings.  But this article is to touch on those who are not significantly limited in their level of agency, their ability to choose right from wrong, who do not have chemical disorders that limit that kind of thing.

My wife always gets a little annoyed when I use movies to illustrate moral principles, but come on.  Spiderman, Harry Potter, The Fantastic 4 (1 and 2), Thor, Green Lantern, Rainman, Jon Q, Click,  the list goes on, and they all have really good messages behind the plots.  All these movies have so many fantastic parallels to real life moral absolutes and I'm much better at explaining anything to anyone using analogies than any other way.  I'm going to start this off by using a parallel from the Green Lantern movie.  For those who aren't familiar with the comics, the movie, or both I'll give a brief synopsis.

The movie is based around a Green Lantern corps made of beings from many different races all over the galaxy (or the universe, can't remember which, exactly) who wield the green light of Will using rings with the Green Lantern symbol on it.  The rings allow the bearers to form hard green light constructs of anything their heart desires, depending on the strength of their will power.  In DC Comic lore, it is considered to be the most powerful weapon in the universe.  There is also, however, another corps, the Yellow Lantern corps.  They wield the yellow light (with yellow rings) of fear and are able to form any hard yellow light construct they want depending on how much they can feed off of other people's fears.
Based on a Latter-Day Saint perspective on agency, the Green Lantern corps powers could be compared to Heavenly Father's plan, which is based on agency, and the Yellow Lantern corps power could be compared to Satan's plan, which is based on compulsion and fear.  The stronger the will power of the Green Lantern, the more powerful they are.  The more afraid they are, the weaker they get and the stronger the Yellow Lanterns get.  Comparatively, the less you are afraid and the more you exercise and strengthen your will power, the more control you have over yourself and the the less the adversary/devil has power over you.

I'm going to use one of my wife's favorite scriptures to illustrate this further.  It comes from 2 Nephi 2:14, "And because [we] are redeemed from the fall [we] have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for [ourselves] and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day..."  In the movie, the yellow lanterns power grows when people succumb to fear and allow themselves to be acted upon.  In the same way, all people who fit the description I made at the beginning of this have the ability to overcome their fears, gain control over their beliefs, emotions, thoughts, words and actions and always act instead of being acted upon, or controlled by, well, anything.  People, circumstances, events, memories, habits the list goes on.

I am convinced that the single reason why there is not total world peace on earth today and, according to LDS doctrine, why there never will be until the earth is cleansed by the Savior and all the wicked are destroyed, is because the very fact that we are mortal means that every last one of us will always have moments of weakness where we allow ourselves to be acted upon instead of acting for ourselves. Just think about that for a bit.  When we allow ourselves to feel angry at someone for insulting, us, who has control of our mind, us or them?  When we fail at something and we feel worthless because of our perception of what failure means, what has control or our mind, us or the circumstance?  When a possession breaks or malfunctions, when the weather is bad, when that driver cuts us off in traffic or almost hits us, when we are lied to, what or who is in control, us or the situation or person?  I think the answer to these questions is obvious.  When we allow ourselves to have a bad attitude about anything or anyone, however trivial or monumental, we are giving up control of ourselves.

100%.

Totally.

Completely.

Willingly.

In those moments, we completely give up control. When we give up control, we choose to give up our ability to choose for that moment; And with addictions that choice ripples even further and robs us of our ability to choose down the road as well and allows the addiction to dictate what we think, believe and do rather than ourselves.

Okay, I wasn't even considering doing this in the beginning but I am going to now, because of how much it so DESPERATELY needs to be put out there.  I'm going to touch on two controversial issues on the front lines today;  And before anyone jumps to conclusions and says I'm being unrealistic with what follows, please read all the way to the disclaimer following the examples I use.  Please keep in mind I discuss these issues from an LDS perspective.

Situation number one.  Person 1 says they were born gay/lesbian, that they can't do anything about it, so they act on it and make all efforts mentally to try and snuff out any guilt they feel way deep down for doing the wrong thing.  Now, I'm as much of an expert of this type of thing as fire is cold, but as far as I know - and I have done a lot of reading about this subject matter - the scientific community has yet to come up with any determinate evidence that that being born that way is a real thing.  No one has found a homosexual gene, not one.  But I'm not saying it isn't possible for other reasons because, like I said, we have no determinate evidence.  But hear me out.  Based on the premise that this person is not born that way, I see only one reason why they would stuff out the reality that what they are doing is wrong.  Fear.  Fear of being wrong, fear of intense guilt, fear being rejected by others who base friendships on that particular sin, fear of the pain of change, even it is for the better, fear of confusion, fear of being uncomfortable in their own mind for heaven's sake.  All of these are completely legitimate fears.  Heck I'm afraid of change some times, afraid of confusion and more.  But the principle is the same.  If this individual could understand that they have more will power than they think they do, they could have so much more peace of mind, knowing that any weakness they have can be eliminated if the choose to act rather than be acted upon and oppressed by their own fear.  But, again, keep reading at least until the disclaimer.

Next subject. Person 2 was born into a family with a long history of alcoholism and anger management problems.  They were raised by a father who had a huge anger problem and was always drinking and the mother is never there, always finding a way to get out of the home for fear of the father going on one of his anger fits and hurting her.  Growing up, person 2 was always afraid of their father and learns from the his example to be angry all the time.  They are too fearful to direct this anger back at the father in an effort to get him to change so they direct the hurt, frustration and anger at the mother.  Take this situation or the reverse of it, having the mother being the one with the anger problem.  Either way, what I'm getting at with this one is this.  Even people who are programmed to act and think in a certain way by the way they were (or weren't) brought up, provided they still fit into the category I mentioned at the start, still have that ability to take control.  No, let me correct that.  They have all power to seize control of themselves, to say to their circumstances, in a manner of speaking,  "This is my body, my actions and my thoughts.  They are MINE.  I own my mind and I and I alone will determine what I do with it.  No one and nothing can take control of me.  One of the thing few things that no one can take from me is my right to choose who I am and who I become."

And they'd be absolutely, unequivocally correct.  In General Conference of October 1995 Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, in his talk "Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father", "One’s individual will thus remains uniquely his. God will not override it nor overwhelm it."  God has given us everything, EVERYTHING, in this world.  But the one thing that is truly and uniquely ours is our will.  No one, not even God Himself can take that from us or He would cease to be God.  We are totally responsible for how we choose to react, how we feel, what thoughts we entertain and act on, what and who we choose to believe and believe in and we have an obligation to take ownership of those things.

Many times we mistakenly assume that, in any number of situations, "I had no choice", "I had to do it", "There was no other option", "There's wasn't anything else I could do".  Okay, okay, if a biker gang had cornered me and said they were going to kill me right then and there and I had a weapon that would stop them, I most likely would use it.  I understand that there are some situations where there is only one option if you want to stay alive or something like that.  But notice those six words I just used, "if I want to stay alive".  If this biker gang had cornered me and it was truly my last moment, but I knew that I could die then and there with a clear conscience regarding my life as a whole, I would choose to die, because of the why, because of the end goal I had in making my choice.  If I want to indulge and be bad, then I had better choose to live a horrible life.  But if I want to be happy and be a good person and not be imprisoned by my own choices, I have better make good ones.

For those who are aching for the disclaimer, here it is.  Every choice we make is for a purpose, whether our motive/reason is to satisfy the natural mortal man, succumbing to our circumstances or other around us, or to choose the higher ground and choose to do what is right and keep control of ourselves, rather than to just take what seems like the easy way out.  But I will go as far as to admit that, many times, yes, it just looks dang near IMPOSSIBLE to make a different choice than the one we want to make.  So often seems impossible to overstate how difficult it is to choose to say something else or to choose a different thought, attitude, believe, desire, action, etc.  Wow does it ever seem impossible many times to make a different choice because our circumstances seem so intensely difficult and we feel enormous pressure from all sides and angles.

But, as has been said by prophets ancient and modern as well as many other religious and non-religious people through the ages, you'll never get anything in life that you can't handle. Let me amend that statement though.  You'll never get anything that you won't be able to handle the right way.  God (or life, if you're not religious) will never throw you something where you are not able to take command, seize control of yourself, and have one of the best natural moral highs of your life when it's all said and done, knowing that nothing in that situation took control of you, that you and you alone showed that you were charge and you just proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt.

A few quote's about will power that I to go into my last point:

William Penn said "'No man is fit to command another that cannot command himself."

Vince Lombardi said "I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious."

Only in those moments, where we grit out teeth, squeeze out every last ounce of will power we have, block the entire world out if only for a split second, and make a choice to be a better person, even if it means suffering some pain, but come out on top, knowing that we didn't have anything left to give and that because of it, we are a better person and our conscience in 100% clear - only in those moments do we truly reach our potential for that moment.

To use a phrase from another movie, X-men: First Class, only when we have harnessed that level of focus that "lies somewhere between rage and serenity" and truly been the best we can, even with all the evil there is surrounding us, will we ever feel total and complete peace about ourselves and the world around us.  I think it's a small price to pay for that kind of peace.  I really don't think most people truly comprehend the power of self-control.  More people need to.

I hope with everything in me that I can be like that one day, and I trust that with God it will happen eventually, but until then I'm just like the rest of you reading this.  I'm prone to making mistakes every day, screwing up, doing the same dumb things over and over again, being so far off of reaching this ideal state of being I have been going on about here.  I succumb to fear all the time.  But I still know I CAN do better and it's entirely up to me to do that.  I will get there one day if I keep trying, if I never give up, and so can you!

To end, I'll use all that I've said to this point to go back to the original goal of this post, to NAIL one thing that I believe needs to be admitted by all people everywhere.  Everyone in this world who fits into the category I mentioned at the beginning needs to admit, boldly, assertively, and without shame, as the silver surfer said at the end of the Fantastic 4 movie,

"There is ALWAYS a choice".

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Power of Music. Well, mainly Piano, but you’ll see why.

 "After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music." -Aldous Huxley

When my family bought a piano when I was about 8, my mom was pretty quick to find a piano teacher and get my brothers and I in piano lessons.  She is an absolutely fabulous violinist herself, she had a good sense of the value of musical education and she made sure I had that same sense ingrained in me.  I can never ever hope to be able to repay her for those hundreds - no, probably thousands - of dollars spent on lessons throughout my childhood.  No amount of money could ever repay her for the result from those lessons.  The only reason I stopped was because my teacher moved and I don't think that the guy she passed us on to wasn't very good at teaching.   Either way, by the time Karen Stoody moved away I had developed a love and understanding of music, especially piano, that I am confident will never diminish (although I did get pretty good at a few other instruments as well in high school).

Now.  On to why I am even writing about this.  The quote I used above in that picture is worth repeating again.  "After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music."  Aldous Huxley nailed it there.  I can say way more with page of music than I can say in an hour of spoken english or in a 5000 word blog post.  So my reason behind this post?  To illustrate the power of music, but more specifically, piano.

Why piano? I'll start off with the technical side of it. Learning to play piano forms connections in the brain that no other activity - heck, no other instrument - can.  There are certain types of movements your hands will make as well as a level of hand/eye/ear coordination required that I guarantee you can't get anywhere else.  There are things you will do with your hands in Mozart's Sonata in B flat Major K333, for example, that you must be able to have a near perfect balance and control between the left and right hands, the left being hand being as easily controlled as the right hand.  When both hands work together completely independently - as well as interdependently - both sides of the brain get used to thinking that way too.

I was once teaching a piano student about music theory and bare bones of the rules behind how music is composed who said something like, "Wow, so the notes aren't all just slapped on the page in random spots?"  I explained that there is a VERY detailed, organized and even highly mathematical clockwork to the theory behind how music works.

The beauty behind it, however, comes when you can learn all the 'rules' behind music composition and then take those rules and use them and manipulate them to form an infinite variety or melodies, harmonies, textures, moods, etc.  I think it would be similar to taking the equation on a line or curve in algebra and adding variables, powers, and such as well as and tweaking the constants to make the shape of the resulting graph into an infinite variety of shapes and behaviors.  

One of the biggest technical benefits of piano is that once you understand the theoretical side clearly, there is pretty much no limit to what you can create (click here to get an idea of just how many possibilities there are).

But what does this have to do with forming those connections in the brain that I mentioned earlier?  In the above picture, imagine there's a line drawn from 'MATHEMATICS' to 'IMAGINATION', from 'SEQUENCING' to 'RHYTHM', from 'ANALYSIS' to 'DAYDREAMING' and from 'LOGIC' to 'INTUITION'.  Drawing those lines, in a manner of speaking, is what piano does to the brain.  Every time you practice scales, chords, arpeggios and other technical exercises in all keys and forms, the constant and deliberate repetition of those exercises develops your level of mental control over distinct and separate muscle movements, dynamic levels, intonation and more between the two hands.  You need an objective approach to be able to interpret many different musical concepts at once, to dissect all the notes, rhythms, intonations, dynamics, tempos and all other technical information to fit it all into a piece of music.   However, you also need a more subjective approach to have a good sense of the mood and artistry you, or the composer of the piece, are trying to create.  What little ornamentations or unwritten nuances need to be emphasized in a given piece?

The more your mind is conditioned to this type of coordination and interdependent thinking, you will find yourself applying the same concepts, eventually without even realizing it, into other aspects of your life.  You will probably find yourself able to think much more quickly and efficiently but also more accurately, critically and constructively as well, taking into consideration each different part of a situation in deep detail but also seeing how all the parts fit together to make the whole more clearly than before.
For more information on this side of the subject matter, click here or here.

I said earlier that I would make this mainly about the power of piano, but, to be fair, I can't really do justice to the non-technical, mental, emotional side of music without considering all instruments.  I'm not going to make a list of them here because I have personally had life changing lessons taught and or reaffirmed in my mind and heart by music played by too many instruments mention here.  A very short list of the music that has significantly influenced my life in any way:


Mormon Tabernacle Choir's performances of The Impossible Dream (my favorite is the one with just the Choir) and This is The Christ.


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Beethoven - The Waldstein (1st movement and 3rd movement)

[edit - also added in 2015]
O Holy Night, the way my wife sings it.
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As Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, "Those who choose, conduct, present, and accompany the music may influence the spirit of reverence in our meetings more than a speaker does" as well as "An organist who has the sensitivity to quietly play prelude music from the hymnbook tempers our feelings and causes us to go over in our minds the lyrics which teach the peaceable things of the kingdom. If we will listen, they are teaching the gospel, for the hymns of the Restoration are, in fact, a course in doctrine!".

The First Presidency has also said in the Preface of the Hymn Book, "Music has boundless powers for moving families toward greater spirituality and devotion to the gospel. Latter-day Saints should fill their homes with the sound of worthy music."

One of my favorite parts of one of my favorite movies, August Rush, also illustrates the power of music well.  The part I'll refer to is right after Wizard discovers how almost inhumanly gifted Evan is and they are just talking.

"Wizard: You know what's out there? A series of higher tones. It's arranged by nature. It's governed by the laws of physics, of the whole universe. It's an overtone, it's an energy, it's a wavelength.  And if you're not riding it, good Lord, you'll never hear it.

August: Where do you think it comes from? What I hear.

Wizard: I think it comes from all around you, really. I mean, it's -- Comes through us, some of us.  It's invisible, but -- But you feel it.

August: So only some of us can hear it?

Wizard: Only some of us are listening."

I echo that with all the enthusiasm I can summon here, ONLY SOME OF US  ARE [REALLY] LISTENING.  Music can change the heart and mind of anyone, many times whether they want it to or not.  It can be a powerful force that can change our very nature for the good, if we let it.  It can have a power over the human soul that can only come from God Himself, in all His genius design of what music is.

Before she moved, Karen gave me a little framed plaque or sign of sorts that simply has a staff with notes and clefs artistically designed as a border with a piano in the middle area and a quote that says "Long after the toys of childhood are forgotten, the gift of music will remain."  My brother Brian bought me a binder of Jon Schmidt piano sheet music for Christmas before I left for my two year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I remember as I realized what it was when I opened it, my dad, in response to the look on my face, said something along the lines of "speechless, for once!" (lol i admit he was justified in that comment).

I have treasured gifts like these to this day and have always thought of them as a reminder of what music really is to me,

A pure, constant, unchanging and unfailing source of food for the soul, love, and inspiration.

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Mother by Any Other Name Would Be as Beautiful

I had a hard time titling this post.  But there are a few reasons I chose it.  For those who haven't seen this video. The man in it talks about Motherhood as a job position. He advertises this job position as "Director of Operations" and conducts the interview via video conference. He says at one part that the job requires a "degree in medicine, finance AND the culinary arts." I think he should have also added psychology, sociology, nutrition, andragogy, pedagogy and philosopy for starters. You see, a mother is a doctor, an accountant, a cook, a psychologist, a teacher/mentor, and wife among many other titles, and whether or not she is known as a mother by others or as any of these titles, the fact of the matter is, the value of a woman who fills the role of mother, with or without children, is still effulgent no matter what she's called.

Now, I know that my mom fit all of these roles very well growing up. And she still does.  BRILLIANTLY.   I can't possibly count the hours she spent helping me with my piano lessons, paying for them, wiping my tears, giving her logic defying magical hugs, taking care of situations involving school bullies and bad teachers with fabulous tact, cooking, teaching my brothers and sisters and I to not be picky eaters (I think she did especially well at that one), cleaning up our messes when she should have made us clean them up, helping me find dates (which meant a lot considering I was not exactly popular throughout my childhood), being a chauffeur, paying crazy money for me to go to EFY, sending me countless words of encouragement while I was serving a mission and I wondered whether or not I was a failure, accepting my wife into the family with complete love and without hesitation when we were married, despite that fact that the way I went about our courtship was very hard on my family emotionally.   And she did it all with class and a spiritual maturity I hope I can achieve one day.  I could obviously go on forever.

I love my mom to death and to life.

But this post is mainly to focus on who I now term to be the worlds best mom.  It was my mother, but I think she would even be okay with me saying that the woman who I see as the best mom in the world now is my wife.

I will only really be able to touch lightly on why that is, but at least allow me to attempt.

My wife had a measly two years of her life with a proper example of what a mother should be.  She was abused heavily as a child and taken from her birth mother.  She was then moved into two foster homes in a row.  The second one constituted the two years where she had a good family, where the foster parents taught her good values and much more.  When she was six she was adopted, her life of more extreme abuse began and it would continue in its most severe forms until she joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints about 17 years later.

But this is one factor in why she is such a fantastic mother, regardless of our lack of children to this point.  Instead of taking the horrible treatment she got from her adoptive family and becoming bitter, angry, cynical and resentful about it, she took from it lessons of how NOT to be.  The effects of the abuse, as well as the conditions surrounding her birth, still have residual effects to this day, but she handles them LIKE A BOSS.  I can't count the number of times people have told her how wonderful she looks and how it's so great to always see her smiling and happy.  As her husband, I know what's really going on inside much of the time.  She is pretty much in constant physical pain in one form or another 24/7.  Yes I said that right, 24/7.  Almost every single second of every day, something hurts.  Yet she handles it like a pro.

I have seen so many cases of people missing choir practice, missing church, cancelling something or any number of other things like that because they had a headache, the sniffles, a cough, a stressful day, are sad or depressed, etc and I want to scream at them sometimes (I never do and never will probably).  I want to chew them out for whining about it because do you know how awesome my wife is?  Do you know what she has done many times when she has the sniffles, a headache, a cough, a stressful day, is sad/despressed and more, ALL AT THE SAME TIME?  She puts on a smiling face, acts happy and does what she has to do without complaint, and SHE ROCKS AT IT.

Oh and let me take it a step further.  You know what she does when I say I want to chew people out for having a hissy fit when they have just one little tiny thing wrong so they "can't make it to [something]"?  She loves them.  She STILL doesn't complain.  She STILL has a good attitude and tells me to take it easy on them!!!  I have never, in my entire life, personally known of any other human being, not even my own mother, be able to pull a stunt like that while living with the physical and emotional crap my wife has to go through on a daily basis.

Oh I'm going too far now, you say?

Let me take it ANOTHER step further.

I hate (and love, in a weird way) to admit this, but I'm also guilty of the kind of whining about the physical ailments I mentioned and when I am really not feeling well, I am completely out of commission.  I'm a huge weakling, I buckle like a toothpick under the weight of our apartment building.  I'm a wienie and put on a terrible show because of how little pain tolerance I have when I get a bad headache or get real nauseous or when I've had a super stressful day.  And just to put my wife over the top completely, if anyone would ever dare to hint that I haven't already, when I'm like this, you know what she does?

She takes care of me!

From her wheelchair, the best she can.

While she's in pain.

She does it without complaint.

Apologizes when she absolutely needs my help with some super tiny small thing.  Apologizes!!

Patiently waits for me to feel better before asking me to do much at all.

And all while she is in her normal (yes, normal) routine of daily pains and aches.

I DARE you to find one mom who would do that for her husband, put up with the piano students she helps mother or other guests being late, being rude, not practicing, making her allergies go haywire by bringing some unknown allergen into the apartment or possibly making her ill by coming here even slightly ill, but yet never complains to them about it, continues to value their friendship, love them, celebrate their successes, be way more patient with their weaknesses than I believe she ever should be, and sets a fabulously Christ-like example for all who come into our home.

I DARE YOU.  But I'm convinced you won't.

Anywhere.  Period.  If you do, I may just ask you for proof of some kind, recorded documented proof before I'll believe you.

She has taken the mostly horrible, devilish example she has seen from her younger years and had the faith in her Heavenly Father to turn it around become the exact opposite of that.  Am I saying she's perfect?  Honestly, I don't think she's far from it.  Way closer than anyone I've ever seen in my life before, especially spiritually.  And she's amazingly beautiful too ;)

The quote I've seen all over facebook from Elder Nelson that says something along the lines of 'Motherhood is the highest calling in all mankind' fits Lorraine perfectly.  She has been called to pass through, and yet handle like champ, more garbage than I have ever personally known anyone to go through.  I'm sure there are people out there who have been through worse, but I don't personally know any of them at all and those for whom I have at least heard stories about, I don't have any indication that they handle their situations as well as my wife handles hers, with the spiritual and emotional maturity that she does, putting her fears, sadness and pains on the back burner so as to not spread negativity to anyone else.

Does she have her days when she just needs to let it out, though, and feel what she needs to feel? Absolutely!  But those days are so few and far between that I don't see the need to consider their weight in relation to all the other days.  She would still pass any evaluation of how well she handles it all with flying colors.

Now to finish off.

I could go on for hours and hours, typing here.  Seriously I'm not kidding.  I could.  I've only scratched the surface here.

But I'll make this simple.  Like I said earlier, compared to her, I'm a wienie in all these areas.  I'm the rottweiler of bad customer service.  When I call a customer service line with a complaint, I get satisfactorily compensated.  Every. Single. Time.  (Well... almost every time)  My wife is gracious enough to let me do my thing when it comes to how I deal with stuff like that, but that's pretty much the only time she lets me do that.  She lets me act like a little two year old and throw a fit to them on the phone.

But when it comes to life experience, I'll be blunt about this.  I grew up in a little box compared to her.  I think she has the maturity, wisdom, patience, charity, virtue, kindness and about a billion things more, of an old lady who has survived a concentration camp in WWII and forgiven the killers who worked there.  I believe that with all my heart, because I see it every day.

If anyone deserved and deserves always a happy mothers day it's my wife, Lorraine Pulsipher.

Happy Mothers Day My Love!!!