Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Arm of the Flesh...

Hello again constant readers.  I again concede to the fact that I am a horrible blogger.  My posts usually only appear once every few months, if we're lucky.  However, I felt particularly inspired today to write about something that has been bothering me since I moved to Portland.  I am talking about the trend that is starting to happen within our world of people choosing to rely on outside sources other than the Spirit to give them an understanding of life.
Now I know what you are probably thinking:  What's wrong with seeking knowledge?  It's true, even President Gordon B. Hinckley said that we should seek knowledge out of the best books and become learned in the ways of our modern world.  That being said, I feel that many of my friends have unfortunately chosen to let the knowledge and philosophies of the world creep into their testimonies and knowledge that comes from a source that surpasses our own earthly understanding:  the Holy Spirit of the Lord.
What exactly do I mean by this?  I will try to illustrate with some examples from my own life.  I went through a period of about two years where I found myself in darkness, without my usual safety nets under me.  I felt angry and confused for a long time.  Because of this, I tried to drown out the existence of Heavenly Father and forget about the things that I had been taught all my life.  I tried to dismiss all the notions of spirituality that I had and what's worse, I tried to use the faults of the earthly organization of the Church, its members, and the overall culture of "Mormonism" to justify my actions.  However, as I tried to immerse myself in the doctrines, philosophies, and teachings of the world outside the Church and convince myself that my new found philosophies were making me happy, I discovered that it was all a lie.  Though I don't know why (and I don't suppose I ever will in this life), Heavenly Father still was present in my life and at the very back of my soul, there was still a flicker of the truth I had been running away from all along.  As I finally conceded to Him, and allowed the Holy Ghost to begin teaching me anew, I was able to find the peace that I was looking for.  The more we try to look for reasons to leave the light, the more the lamps of our testimonies burn out.  I found myself completely in the dark before I had an idea of how serious my situation had become.  In addition I have seen many of my friends, both here in Portland and in other places that I have lived who lose their way in favor of becoming more "enlightened" through studies of various philosophers, teachers, and other earthly authority figures outside of the Church, citing the need for "logic" and "explanations" for everything that happens in life.  So here is my plea to those of you, my dear friends and family, that may be struggling with your feelings about the Church, Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, and the Plan of Salvation:  Look for your answers in prayer, meaningful scripture study, and the words of ancient and modern day prophets of the Lord.  But this is not all.  Most importantly: YOU MUST BE HUMBLE AND SILENT ENOUGH FOR THE SPIRIT TO TEACH YOU!  There will be many, many distractions in this modern world of ours that will lead you away from the Master Instructor, who is the Holy Ghost.  Ask Heavenly Father to help you feel His guidance in all of your struggles.  No matter how many philosophers you study or books on psychology you may read, there will be NO GREATER KNOWLEDGE than that which you can obtain from meaningful prayer, study, meditation, and communion with the Holy Ghost.  I challenge you, readers, to take time each time to quiet the noise around you.  Turn off the TV, the computer, the music, and all other earthly inventions.  Listen.  He will speak to you and if you let Him, He will teach you ALL things that you need to know and calm your anxieties about the things you don't need to know right now in this life.  And as always, if you need a friend to lend a listening ear, I am always here for you too.  You are a child of God and are entitled to receive the confirmations that you need about the details of why you are here on earth, what He would have you do, and what you need to do to be happy.  One last encouragement, dear friends:  IT IS 100% OKAY TO NOT HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS.  There are going to be many instances in your life where something devastating happens to you.  This is all part of the experience of being here on earth.  Do not let these instances shake what the Spirit has confirmed to you.  I recently had someone express to me that the phrase "unshakable testimony" didn't make a lot of sense to them because they felt that it is the "shaking" that helps us to grow.  I slightly disagree.  I close my post with this thought:  Your testimony can be unshakable if you do not let outside sources cloud your judgement on what the eternal principles of progression are.  The way we grow and learn is by bettering ourselves according to the guidelines set by our Heavenly Father.  These guidelines are not boundaries, but keys to unlock the chains of addiction, depression, wickedness, and self-loathing.  If we live within these guidelines, they will act as a shield to protect from the turbulence or "shaking" that life throws at us.  We can take comfort in the fact that no matter how crappy life gets, the nature of our Heavenly Father and his Kingdom remain constant.  That is what "unshakable" means.   Just try to not be happy as you truly discover these principles through the influence of the Holy Ghost.  I dare you.  More to come...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Musings on the Death of a Friend

Hello constant readers whomever you may be.  I've been putting off writing this post, because it is not something that I enjoy talking about, in fact, it is one of the hardest things to talk about.  In fact, before starting my writing today, I hesitated to give this post the title that first came to my mind.  But after reflecting for a few moments, I realized that there is no need to sugar coat it because the Lord has already done that for us in the best possible way.  So I unashamedly confront my emotions for all to see and hope that my words will be of comfort to someone.  My goal for this post is to type what I feel prompted to type.  Though I try to not to be too religious on my blog, I feel that in this instance I need to be, for my feelings on this subject are too tied up in my spiritual beliefs for any attempts at separation.   Yesterday was one of the worst days I had had in a long time.  Not only did I start off the day with financial problems, which I won't go into now, but I also found out that one of the most beautiful people that I have ever known passed away.  I admit that he and I were not best friends, but we knew each other well and I shared some very beautiful moments with him in my life.  That person was my friend Kristopher Jude King.  I couldn't believe the news.  This was one of those classic moments where you actually find yourself doubting the wisdom of Heavenly Father for a little bit.  I remember thinking, "Why?"  "Why would one of the most guileless, selfless, loving, and caring people be chosen to die at this the very prime of his life?"  My feelings of doubt didn't last long, however, as I realized that as soon as I had asked the question I had received the answer.  Kris died because Heavenly Father needed him to work by his side in the spirit world and he had accomplished everything that he needed to accomplish in this life.  Though I received the answer, I chose to attend a session at the temple that very afternoon so I could be reminded of the beauty of Heavenly Father's plan for us.  As I soaked in the glorious spirit that was present in the House of the Lord, I felt so grateful for the knowledge that I possess about the great plan of salvation.  Through the grace and kindness of our Heavenly Father, we can know for ourselves that we will be able to see our loved ones who have passed on again someday.  As I surrendered myself to the service of others in the temple yesterday, I was able to forget my own sorrows and feel better enough to carry on with my responsibilities.  Kris knew this too.  He lived his life in a way that I know was exemplary to our Heavenly Father and I know that he is happy now that he has returned to his heavenly home.  I only pray that it doesn't take an awakening like this to help remind me to ever be grateful for the tender mercies of the Lord.  The lesson I guess I wish to impress upon my readers is to never take a moment for granted.  This life is a blessing from our Heavenly Father and we never know when it will be time for us to go.  Kris's death came without warning, but he was prepared.  I hope that we will all take his example to heart and truly enjoy every moment of every day while we still can.  For in this way, we show our love to Heavenly Father and our older brother Jesus Christ for the beautiful world that they have given us to live in and be a part of.  In closing I share a poem written by church President Gordon B. Hinckley at the passing of his dear wife, Marjorie Pay Hinckley.  It has brought me comfort in many a dark time and I hope that all of my friends who knew Kris will take comfort in the Lord and in each other during this hard time that we have to be separated from our friend.  We'll see him again.  :)

What is this thing that men call death?
This quiet passing in the night?
'Tis not the end, but genesis
Of better worlds and greater light.

O God, touch Thou my aching heart
And calm my troubled, haunting fears.
Let hope and faith, transcendent, pure,
Give strength and peace beyond my tears.

There is no death, but only change,
With recompense for victory won
The gift of Him, who loved all men.
The Son of God, the Holy One.

Much love to you, my friends and family.  And Godspeed, my dear friend Kris.  Rest in peace until we meet again.

More to come....

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bones of contention...

Hello constant readers (whoever you may be).  I recently posted a status on my Facebook page that has caused quite a large discussion thread between some of my friends.  I admit, selfishly, that the main reason I wanted to post my opinion was to see what kinds of reactions I got.  Unfortunately, it seemed to blossom into the type of conversation that isn't my favorite, where certain individuals seem to see the opinions of others as a direct attack on their own beliefs.  I could be wrong in my perception, but I very much doubt it.  It is troubling to me that in our society today there seems to be a new obsession among us (this includes members of the Church) to point out what is wrong with the way others are living their lives and letting our emotions rule our decisions.  There have been two recent blog posts that have gone viral:  one entitled "Club Unicorn"; in which a married LDS man proclaims himself to be gay, in a heterosexual marriage, and perfectly happy with his life as a husband and father, with no desire to be with anyone else but his wife, claiming the reason why their sex life is so good is because of the level of spiritual intimacy they share as a couple.  The initial responses to this very public post have been very positive, with many LDS people on Facebook sharing the link to it on their walls with comments like:  "this guy has an AMAZING attitude" and "check out this cool story".  The second blog post is "An answer to Club Unicorn", written by a divorced LDS woman who was in a similar situation that did not work out so well.  In her case, she and her husband did not have a fulfilling sex life and the level of intimacy in their marriage was damaged because he felt he was not "being true" to himself and his sexual orientation.  She cites her ruined marriage as a warning to all that the "Club Unicorn" mentality may not be right for everybody.  The responses to this blog post were mostly from people in the openly homosexual community, saying things like "I wish all those Mormons posting the "Club Unicorn" link would also read this one".  So the big question I pose to both groups of people is:  "All right then.  Who is right on this issue?"   The answer is simple.  Both of them are right.  Here is my two cents on this whole issue:  Everyone, everywhere, throughout all generations of time and across different upbringings and cultures has had a plethora of different experiences that has woven them into the human tapestries that they are today.  It is absolutely ludicrous to expect everyone to conform to one way of thinking because everyone is different.  On both sides of this issue, I believe that each couple had to make decisions that worked for them, not anyone else.  I don't doubt that it is possible to be gay and be perfectly happy in a heterosexual marriage with children.  But I also point out that it is NOT the best option for all men who are homosexual.  The path that we all choose is a private matter between us and the Lord.  It is only when others directly infringe on our own ability to choose our own paths that we must stand up for what we believe in.  That being said, I DON'T BELIEVE that an infringement on our own rights occurs simply because someone is living their lives in a different way than we are.  On the same note, do not expect me to be your friend if you start waving a protest sign in my face telling me that I am a religious bigot because I do not agree with the homosexual lifestyle.  That is my opinion for my own personal life.  I guess the point of this long soapbox rant is that I am getting tired of all the bones of contention that we keep chewing on over this and similar issues.  Let's leave the judgement up to Heavenly Father and make sure that we are being true to ourselves and what the light of Christ tells us to do.  And those of us that do possess the fullness of the gospel simply have a responsibility to live good, exemplary lives, so as to attract those who are lost to further enlightenment and happiness.  I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and a worthy priesthood holder.  I am not ashamed of this and I am happy to answer any questions about my faith that you may have.  The true gospel of Jesus Christ is the way to a happy life and the way to help others recognize that is by being an example and being friendly enough to our brother and sisters so that they will feel comfortable choosing the right path for themselves, which they will have to do themselves in their own time.  Let us stop arguing over what is right for everyone and instead focus on bettering ourselves.  More to come...

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A New Day Has Come...

Hello constant readers whoever you are.  It is time for another one of my sporadic posts because something wonderful is happening in my life.  I have found a very special person whom I like very much and who likes me back.  This has caused me to evaluate my life in ways that I haven't thought about before because now I am looking towards the future and what kind of future we could possibly have together.  The only frustrating thing about it is....she is currently living in Utah while I am still finishing school here in Oregon for my Master's degree.  This has done two things:  1.  It has taught me the meaning of the phrase "Absence makes the heart grow fonder."  Every day that has gone by since we saw each other last seems to get longer and longer.  I didn't want to leave her behind in Utah and return to Oregon.  2.  I have been thinking about all the aspects of my life and been trying to get rid of anything that would make her not comfortable with the idea of dating me.  Though there isn't much of that kind of garbage left in my life at this point, I feel that I am really starting to polish up my whole entire way of life and image and I find myself becoming a better man for her.
The really ironic thing about this whole situation is that we really don't know each other that well yet, but I am very happy that she is in my life.  And that is enough for me for now.  But I miss her and I hope that she misses me as much.  This is exciting and I wish I could give more details, but we are still in the embryonic stages of our relationship.  But I have a feeling that this could be really something special.  More to come...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A touchy subject...

Hello readers.

Today I wanted to record my feelings about a subject that is very personal to me. For purposes of this discussion, I'll call this post "How to Deal With Conflicting Feelings When a Loved One Chooses a Path Different From Your Own".

The reason why this subject is so personal to me is because I have been on both sides of this issue. During the time in my life when I was pretty much miserable 24/7 because I was not happy with my own choices, my parents, siblings, and other important people in my life had to deal directly with this. Now I find myself on the opposite side of the fence. I will not be naming any names or citing any specific examples because it is not any of my business to do so and I do not condone the concept of gossiping in any way, shape, or form. However, there are some general issues I wish to discuss in order of importance:

1. The principle of loving the person for who they are at their basic core. Unfortunately many "devout" members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints completely overlook this fact. Instead of reaching out with love and maintaining the same healthy relationship with the person in question, they instead react with disgust and isolation. This does two things: One, it teaches the person that they are no longer worth any time, consideration, or basic respect. And two, it creates a terrible image of Christianity that will make it difficult for that person to keep their faith at all. Perhaps this is why so many who have been treated this way turn to alcohol, sexual encounters, and other forms of self-abuse to try and "cover up" these hurt feelings.

2. The principle of knowing yourself well enough that you know what YOUR particular boundaries are. This is one of the most simple truths we can look at. If we don't approve of some particular action, there is nothing that says that WE have to participate in those actions simply because we don't condemn the people who are choosing to live their life a certain way. To each his own. Even in our closest relationships, it is impossible to truly know every single experience, hardship, miracle, or opinion that we each have individually. So don't put on the judge's robe; you do NOT have all the facts and you never will.

3. Take responsibility for your own actions. We are all human. We all screw up at some point or another. What defines what kind of a person we are is what we do when we make mistakes. If you have wronged or offended someone, remember that that person is a precious son or daughter of God, no matter what their appearance or lifestyle may be. This fact alone means that they deserve to be treated as a human being with feelings. That being said, however, you don't have to be a doormat either. If there is a person in your life that is hurting you, be honest with them and let them know what they are doing to you. Maybe they aren't even aware of what they are doing.

In short, constant readers, I beg and plead with you to think about what you do and say to those who may be struggling with their own testimony of a loving Heavenly Father and a Savior who died for all of us. All we can do is love them, let's leave the final judgement up to our everloving Father in Heaven. More to come...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Into the Light...

Dear friends and family who follow this blog: I have a wonderful experience to share and I've already shared it with many of you on Facebook. I don't why this experience happened to me at this stage in my life, but I am so grateful and feel so blessed that it did. Maybe Heavenly Father was so tired of seeing me so miserable more often than I was happy that he decided to intervene. Whatever the reason, my life has been changed. Ever since my falling away from the church when I had to leave BYU-Idaho, and even before then, I have struggled with feelings of self-loathing. Though I looked and acted confident on the outside, I really hated myself. I didn't see myself as being worth anyone's immediate attention, let alone worthy enough to deserve a beautiful eternal companion. My falling away from the truth only confirmed this. After I discovered that I was even more miserable trying to live outside of the gospel, I returned and went through the necessary steps of repentance. Though I eventually came back into fellowship with my ward and began serving in the church again, I still struggled with these feelings of not trusting myself and not believing 100% that Heavenly Father really loved me. After spending a hard first semester in Portland and returning home for a wonderful Christmas with my beloved family, it was time to return again to Portland where again I had no prospects for work or the means to support myself. I had less than 200 dollars to my name and I owed my roommate about 1,200 dollars in back rent and utility payments. Then on the Tuesday I got back from school I found out that my car was going to cost another 750 dollars to fix the rear brake pads and rotors. This forced me to open up another line of credit because I could not pay for the repairs any other way. Destitute, I was on the point of calling my mom and dad and informing them that I wanted to move home, quit school and find a job in the Boise area that was more permanent and steady than my crazy music career had ever been. For some reason, I fell on my knees instead. My prayer habits had been in great disrepair as of late, since I figured that Heavenly Father didn't really care all that much for me anyway, but this time I poured out my heart and soul. I cried uncontrollably while I was praying and was grateful later that my roommate Ryan was out of the apartment because I was being VERY vocal and VERY loud. I remember I kept on pleading and pleading with Heavenly Father to do SOMETHING to make it all okay, I didn't know what, but please do SOMETHING for me. When I got up, I had the very distinct impression that I needed to pay my roommate Ryan all the money that I owed him. Right then. In full. This scared me because as I said before, I only had about 200 dollars in my account and at that time I owed him about 1200 in total. Again, I had the impression, "You need to pay Ryan." So I smiled through my wet eyes and snotty nose and got out my checkbook. As I wrote those checks, I had a wonderful feeling come into my heart that if I try to put into words went something like this: "I love you so much. Do you have any idea how much I've missed you? I will always take care of you, all you have to do is come to me. You deserve a good life, enjoy life, don't be afraid of it." Since that day, a mighty change has come over me. The petty temptations that I have struggled with for so so long in my life are becoming less and less difficult to deal with. I finally have hope for the first time in a long time that someday I will marry a wonderful woman and be sealed in the temple, and most importantly, that someday I will be a father. I still have a long way to go, but I feel like I have overcome a very big obstacle in my life. Where there was darkness, my life is starting to let in a glorious light. I now have been praying twice a day at least, without fail, sometimes more if I need to ask for a certain blessing. But I have a strong testimony now that Heavenly Father really does KNOW US INDIVIDUALLY and that HE LOVES US SO MUCH! To end I write the verses of one of my favorite primary songs and testify to all those reading these words that this song is one of the most basic truths that is so important for us to understand. We are never alone, we just need to come to Him, He is waiting, with His arms stretched wide.

I am a child of God and He has sent me here,
has given me an earthly home, with parents kind and dear.

I am a child of God and so, my needs are great.
Help me to understand His words, before it grows too late.

I am a child of God. Rich blessings are in store.
If I but learn to do His will, I'll live with Him once more.

(and this is my favorite verse, though it is not often sung:)
I am a child of God. His promises are sure.
Celestial glory shall be mine, if I can but endure.

Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way.
Teach me all that I must do to live with Him someday.

Don't give up. You are loved. :) More to come...

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Reflections 2012

Happy 2012 everyone! It's been a wonderful 365 days for me and I hope it has been for you too. I continue to be amazed at the way life keeps on teaching me things. Just when I think I have a handle on my life I find new and unexpected surprises along the way. I love the fact that I can keep on learning and growing in new and exciting ways each year. So to recap 2011 here are the breakdown of months and what I got to do:

January: Sang my first title role in USU's production of Giulio Cesare, and was able to start serving in my student ward in a calling again. :)
February: Managed to make it through Valentine's Day without massacre-ing anyone, thanks to some wonderful friends in Logan.
March: Had a fun St. Paddy's day and made it through the evil Logan weather.
April: Lots of singing! Sang the role of Papageno in USU's production of The Magic Flute and sang with the Chamber Singers in a concert of 70's music. Groovy!
May: Presented my senior recital "Portrait of the Musician as a Young Man" and graduated with my Bachelor's in Vocal Performance from USU. Yay!
June: Began my second summer with Utah Festival Opera, rehearsing for five shows.
July: Performed with UFO and competed in the Michael Ballam Concorso Lirico Vocal Competition.
August: Was the best man for my brother Wyn's wedding to Andrea Decker and moved to Portland, Oregon to start my new life as a Master's student at Portland State University.
September: Learned lots of lessons in humility while searching for a job in the Portland area.
November: Sang for the Royal Rosarian's Centennial Celebration in Portland and had an awesome Thanksgiving with my whole family.
December: Performed as Zurga in two scenes from Bizet's The Pearl Fishers at PSU and was assigned the role of Le Marquis de la Force in PSU's upcoming production of Dialogues of the Carmelites before going home to a wonderful Christmas and New Year's with family.

It's the little things in life that make it worth living. May you all have a happy and blessed year this year and let us all remember the reason why we are all here in the first place. As the motto from my mission (The Great Florida Ft. Lauderdale Mission) states: Obedience is the price, faith is the motive, the Spirit is the key, and Christ is the reason. Obedience rules the Spirit, and the Spirit rules the work. As we work to better ourselves each day, I hope we can all remember to be like Christ while doing so and most importantly FIND JOY IN THE JOURNEY. Life is to enjoy, so let's do so in 2012! More to come...