Tuesday, September 3, 1996

Those Darn Mormon Commercials! - The Nutshell

AFRTS, the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service, was our primary source for news and entertainment while I was in Panama, broadcast's no commercials... well, no commercials for commercial products anyway. What they do show is public service announcements. Among these are the messages from the Church. A young lady that I worked with said that only commercials from "The Church of the Latter Day Saints" are shown. I said that other churches show commercials as well, but she just said, "No they don't."

Anyway, AFRTS shows the messages because of their public message quality. "But why the name of the Church at the end?" she asked. To create awareness. Let's look at some of the commercials... so to speak. The married couple who run out of gas on a country road and go for a friendly walk to a gas station, while in the background you hear a song about being best friends. "Great friends make for great marriages..." That's the public service... especially in these days of high divorce rates and the innumerable number of quickie marriages I've seen since joining the Navy. I guess AFRTS has seen some of those marriages, too. So, they show the message. And at the end... "A message from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints."

"Why?" she asks.

Because it creates awareness. A connection is made between the message and the messenger. The importance of friendship in a marriage... what a novel and practical concept... being friends with your spouse. That's beautiful. "A message from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints." This concept is a doctrine from this Church. They teach this as part of their religion.

The boy following a transient along a railroad track and asking him, "If you were my age... where would you go?"

The transient looks the boy in the face and says, "To school."

Message received. The importance of education. A universal concept. Some may feel it so universal that perhaps the US Ad Council is doing enough to "Spread the Word." But then we see the name of the messenger. "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints." This concept is a doctrine of this church. They teach the importance of education as part of their religion. The connection is once again made.

I admit... I haven't seen very many commercials from other churches on AFRTS. Oh, sure, the occasional "Be nice to your Mess Cook" and "Don't steal" messages from the Navy Chaplin Corps. I think about what these people must go through trying to fill time on a network that doesn't have commercials. You know they've got a budget that isn't funded by advertising... and as nice as some of their homemade public service announcements can be... okay, mostly their pretty corny, and I think they know it all too well... producing your own non commercial commercials can be pretty expensive... So what do they do? They use previously produced ads from the ad council, other networks and churches... they get somebody else to flip the bill. It makes for both better ads and happier viewers.

Well, it seems that this young woman... and her husband I might add, had this hangup about seeing the commercials from the Church. I think if I'm ever faced with a situation like this again, I'd have to ask, "Is there something you don't like about the messages?" Who can argue against being nice to your neighbor, counseling your children kindly and being friends with your spouse?

"Why does it have to have the Church's name," they might ask.

"Because it shows people that these teachings are part of our religion. I've seen and heard of advertisements for numerous churches. Some say, 'We accept you just the way you are.' others say, 'We're a family church.' Others stress the study of the Bible. Some teach of preparedness while others teach of salvation by simple faith.

"Many of these churches are local organizations. They rarely spread beyond their own congregations... indeed by stressing certain principles, no matter how correct they are, they leave others by the wayside. Alienating themselves as a people... or a flock... and alienating others who don't fit into their scheme of things.

"Within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we find true universality. We don't take a single point or doctrine and harp on it until we turn blue in the face. We look at all the doctrines and we see how they are all necessary to living happy productive lives. If it were to be summed up into a single word, that word wouldn't be trust or prepare. it wouldn't be learn or pray. The word would be universal in nature. The word would lead the way in our understanding of all those issues and doctrines that would help us all in our lives. That word... is Love.

"'The greatest commandment,' Christ said, 'is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, might and mind.' And how do we show our Heavenly Father that we love him? by following all of his commandments. Not just one or two... all of them. And we must do so correctly and with the right intentions. Through such things as faith, learning, prayer, preparedness, strength in ourselves and in our families."

Friday, August 2, 1996

Dedicate Your Homes - The Nutshell

Greetings, Family, I've returned from my temporary hiatus having learned much and wanting to share it all with you.

I want to talk to you a little bit about the home. Someone once said that the home should be the second most holy place in the Church... Second only to the temple. We all know that before any ordinance is performed in a temple that the building first has to be dedicated. Who among us has taken the time to dedicate our homes? The place where our children do most of their learning about the gospel. As I told my Elders' quorum in a recent lesson, it is not the responsibility of the church to teach our children, it's our responsibility as parents to teach them and we should call on the Holy Spirit to help and guide us. One way of doing that is dedicating the homes we live in. It can make a great difference.

When I first learned about dedicating homes, I thought, "Boy, I can't wait until I have a house so I can dedicate it." Then I realized that even though I didn't have a house like other people, I do have a "Home." It might only be a room in a Navy Barracks that I have to share with one or two other people, but it's still my home... that's where all my stuff is anyway. So I began a little tradition of dedicating every new room that I moved into. From Pensacola to Panama to Maine, I have taken the time, after settling in and organizing my place how I liked it, to dedicate it to the Lord. It's nothing fancy, it's just a simple prayer offered up to Our Heavenly Father. I would thank him for having a roof over my head and a bed to sleep in; and I would ask him for a blessing on my little room, that it would be a place where the Spirit could dwell; that it could be a place of learning; a place of comfort where my friends could feel the spirit; a place for them to come and feel safe and not have to worry about anything; a place where they can leave their problems at the door.

When I was in Panama, I was having some personal problems and I needed to seek professional help through available counseling options. Well, that usually starts with a trip to Medical and a talk with our Corpsman. He asked me why I was there and we chatted for a little bit before he said to me, "You're a Mormon, aren't you?"

"Yes, I am. How did you know?"

"I did room inspections this week... Walking into your room really... Humbled me."

"Humbled? I don't think I was going for that when I was decorating."

"No, I mean that in a good way."

This is what he saw when he entered my room:

On the door to my room was a picture of Christ knocking on a large wooden door(Seemed appropriate). As he entered the "kitchen" area, he saw a picture of Jesus talking with Mary and Martha... Martha was mixing something in a bowl (Again, seemed appropriate). Above my desk were postcards of temples. On my walls pictures of gospel stories from the Bible and Book of Mormon. Over my bed was a photo of the Christus in Salt Lake City. Above my dresser were portraits of The Lord Jesus Christ (Del Parson's painting) and the Prophet Joseph Smith as well as my line of authority as an Elder. On my locker was a picture of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.

"You know," said the Corpsman, who later told me that he was an inactive member of the church, "A person could walk all the way down that hall angry, but there's no way he or she could go into your room and still feel that way."

For those of you who haven't yet taken the time to do so, dedicate your homes. Make them a place where the Spirit will feel welcome and a place where your family and your visiting friends can feel the spirit.

Tuesday, June 4, 1996

Magnifying Our Callings - The Nutshell

It is callings that I speak of today. Somon once said, "There are no small parts, just small actors." I have recently been given a calling. That of Elders Quorum instructor in my little branch here in Maine. I jumped at the opportunity! because one thing I've learned is to always accept a calling... especially if you don't have one at the moment. (I'm not advocating that we bog ourselves down with callings to the point of neglecting other responsibilities of course... But callings mean blessings.)

Well, I got my calling and I went home and looked over the lesson that I was going to teach when I realized, "Why have I been called to instruct a bunch of men who are all at least twice my age? What have I got to teach them... they should be teaching me!" Which reminded me of another saying, "We learn most by teaching others." As I read through the lesson, I was so thankful for the format that is used in our lesson manuals... that of directing the questions toward the members and not just toward the instructor. I realized that a lot of my teaching will be in the form of inquiry... Sure, I'll research the material and read the scriptures and pray about what I'm teaching that we can all take these lessons home with us... but that is only part of the lesson, the rest lies in hearing how these gentlemen have applied them in the past.

I spoke in my Ward in Pensacola on Fathers' Day 1994 about the role of the priesthood in the home and I took a copy of the Priesthood manual with me to the podium and held it up saying, "This is a regular how-to manual for husbands and fathers." As a single adult who hopes one day to be just that, I I think it's great that I have this interesting headstart. The combined lessons and experiences of worthy patriarchs in my quorum. So when I ask during a lesson, "How can we as Priesthood holders apply this in our homes and with our families?" even though my home and family is one room and one person, I become a little more prepared and a little more confidant that when the time does come for me to choose an eternal companion and start an eternal family, that I'll be ready to treat them with respect and give them the guidance and love that they deserve.

Friday, May 3, 1996

The Church and the Internet - The Nutshell

Greetings, my extended family, from across the nation and through the icomprehensible structure of that overhyped phenomenon known as the internet. :-)

I mentioned in my last article that I had visited the World Wide Web First Ward. Since then, I've also found a few other web sites created by members of the church. Some of them have discourses on the gospel and others are simply lists of members' personal interests along with their testimonies. One very interesting site I found is none other than the official web page of the Church at http://www.lds.org. I think that is so cool.

Among the first things I found when I first started "surfing the net" were a lot of anti-Mormon sites. This was really disappointing, but in time I found more LDS authored sites aand that was when I realised what a great missionary tool we have here. People can read the Book of Mormon on line and even download it onto their computers. They can read biographies of the general authorities of the church and read their testimonies. I personally hope to see more sites like this. Gosh, I could write one myself.

Far be it from me to predict what else could happen on the internet. I'll be the first to knock down any claims that it's a revolution. Point, click and wait does not a revolution make. But maybe one day we'll see internet simulcasts of general conference and firesides. Why not? These would be great supplements to the wonderful missionary effort that's already happening. As the internet stands now, it would a small supplement. Nevertheless, in the mean time, it's a great way to spread the word to at least a small part of the population. I often wonder, how many people who stumble on these pages or catch a radio or tv ad go on to investigate the Church a little more in depth. Certainlly, there are a lot that just brush it off... the majority, I'm sure... but even if it's only one person who is moved by them... how wonderful it is.

Undoubtedly, just as radio and television have helped to spread the Gospel in addition to the ageless methods of the written and spoken word, so I believe the internet will also prove to be a formidable tool. It already brings people with common interests together in the form of chat rooms and mailing lists... One interesting feature of these is the lurker... those people who sit back and watch the ideas flow... till they get up enough nerve to make a comment or, more importantly, ask a question.

Tuesday, April 2, 1996

Thoughts of a displaced Mormon - The Nutshell

Hello, Brothers and Sisters... Let's see, it's been about seven years since I've spoken with any of you and I first just want to let you all know that I'm doing fine and have remained strong in the faith. For the last few years... Three years to the day as I'm writing this... I've been serving in the Navy as a Cryptologic Technician Collection... or CTR. In that time, I've been doing a lot of studying... I've had the opportunity to read the Book of Mormon, close to where the events actually happened, in Central America. I've had the opportunity to visit with the Saints in Panama, New England, Florida and Illinois... I've even visited the World Wide Web First Ward...

I hope to be able to relate to you some of the things that I've learned in recent years. I've been doing a lot of reading but I haven't been able to share much of what I've learned with people... but I think I've found a voice here.

A Few Thoughts on Personal Discoveries and the True Church

I learned something about myself in early 1994. I was at the Naval Technical Training Center in Pensacola, Florida, studying for a test. The topic was radio wave modulation and I was having a hard time understanding things like non linear mixing. I could memorize the definition, but I wanted to understand the reason behind it. As I expressed this desire to my classmates, one of them said, "Oh, he's one of those people who has to understand everything." In other words, I'm analytical. Too analytical for them and I admitted it. "I can't help it," I said. "I need to know the reason behind the fact, not just the fact itself. I can't just accept that an increase in period will result in a decrease in frequency..." I needed to know why...

One night, I realized exactly how analytical I am. I'll analyze something to death if it's at all possible. I can't leave well enough alone in some matters. I keep rethinking the problem and changing the answer until I totally get lost and/or frustrated. That's what was happening to me as I tried to study for my test that night.

After our study time and before I went to bed that night, I went for a walk and thought about my analytical behavior. It was then that I came to an interesting understanding about myself. As much as I analyze things, it's a wonder I'm a churchgoing man. My personality alone, leaves very little room for "Traditional" religion.

I've written in the past of how religion, traditionally, will usually have a single reason for everything. "Because God wants it that way!" I have also written that the Human spirit doesn't like that answer because we're all curious creatures with a need to learn. A need to progress. So, the all encompassing "God's will" answer doesn't cut it for us. We feel shortchanged by Traditional religion. It puts so many demands on us yet returns so little. Less analytical types seem to be satisfied with leaving it up to the powers that be in that department. That's not good enough for me. Analysts hate to be spoon-fed information.

So, what's happened here? Me, the analyst who will analyze anything to death in an attempt to understand it. What is it that I've found in this church that has kept me in it? That has made me an active and participating member? Don't I analy he church? Sure! I analyze the church more than anything else I know. I'm always tearing it apart in an attempt to understand it... at times, even in attempts to disprove it and just when I think I have found something to completely bring it crashing down around me, something comes to the rescue and prevents that while reinforcing the church's position at the same time. Sometimes, I look at what the enemies of the church have to say and test the church on it. So far, everything that I've come up with has been totally disproved by the church. And anything that the church does not answer right away is dogeared, if you will, and given a promise to be answered later. That's when my analytical self kicks in again and says, "How can I be sure that you'll keep that promise?" And I'm given examples, evidences, truths of how questions have been dogeared in the past and then answered when the time was right, when the people needed to know or were finally able to handle the new knowledge.

So, what have I found here? An analyst's dream come true. Something that will refuse to be torn down, no matter what you throw at it. It challenges me and blesses me at the same time. There are no vague answers here. There are the facts and, more importantly, the reasons behind them. The church has given me knowledge. It causes me to wonder, to study, to learn, to pray, to understand, to be happy.