A House of Prayer Podcast Episode 9 – Families and Fathers

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In this episode I present an essay about families and fathers. Part of this essay was given as a talk I gave on Father’s Day shortly after I returned home from my mission. The text of that part is not online. However, the last part of the podcast comes from my Father’s Day tribute to my father.

If you’ve subscribed to my feed, you should receive the audio file automatically. If you have not subscribed to my feed, it’s never too late! You can also click on the following link to download the podcast directly (right-click {or option-click on a Mac} to save the file): A House of Prayer 9 – Families and Fathers.

You can also subscribe directly from the iTunes Store by clicking on this link: A House of Prayer podcast (notice: requires and opens iTunes).

Let me know what you think!

Credit: The short music clip I use as an entrance and exit to the show is an arrangement of Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing from the album Reflections of Christ. Visit that link to find out how you can purchase the music (I’m not associated with the artists; I just enjoy the music).

The podcast album art is an image by Irwin-Scott. Check out his photo stream on Flickr. I thought his photo of the Salt Lake Temple would be a fitting image as a house of prayer. His night-time photo of the illuminated temple surrounded by darkness has a lovely symbolic meaning of the temple as a light on a hill, an ensign to the nations, a lighthouse shining forth in the darkness.

A House of Prayer Podcast – Episode 4

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In this episode I present a talk I gave shortly after I returned home from serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is titled The Weight of Missionary Work. As members of the LDS Church we have the responsibility to share the gospel with those around us in whatever way we can (that is one of the purposes of this blog). Missionary work neither begins nor ends with full-time missionary service. The transcript of the talk has not yet been posted on my blog but will be at a future point. So for now, just enjoy the podcast. 🙂

Update: The post/podcast is now fixed – re-download the audio files if you downloaded them before today!

If you’ve subscribed to my feed, you should receive the audio file automatically. If you have not subscribed to my feed, it’s never too late! You can also click on the following link to download the podcast directly (right-click {or option-click on a Mac} to save the file): A House of Prayer 4 – The Weight of Missionary Work

You can also subscribe directly from the iTunes Store by clicking on this link: A House of Prayer podcast (notice: requires and opens iTunes).

Let me know what you think!

Credit: The short music clip I use as an entrance and exit to the show is an arrangement of Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing from the album Reflections of Christ. Visit that link to find out how you can purchase the music (I’m not associated with the artists; I just enjoy the music).

The podcast album art is an image by Irwin-Scott. Check out his photo stream on Flickr. I thought his photo of the Salt Lake Temple would be a fitting image as a house of prayer. His night-time photo of the illuminated temple surrounded by darkness has a lovely symbolic meaning of the temple as a light on a hill, an ensign to the nations, a lighthouse shining forth in the darkness.

Do Good and Love God, Part 6

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Another of the best things we should focus on is serving God. One of the saddest experiences I had as a full-time missionary occurred in the MTC. While there we manned the call lines for people who called in requesting a copy of the Book of Mormon, Bible, or church video. One man with whom I spoke told me that he felt like he had spent much of his life serving God but didn’t feel like he received anything for it. He told me he was going to stop serving God and instead wait for God to serve him. That brief conversation has remained with me over the years. At the time I had no good response to the man’s statement. Over the years I’ve thought about my experience with that man and spent time learning about the importance of serving God.

We are commanded to serve God: “And ye shall serve the Lord your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water” (Exodus 23:25). When we are baptized as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we covenant with God to serve Him. Further, being baptized is one way we show God by our actions that we will serve Him: “[The people of Limhi] were desirous to be baptized as a witness and a testimony that they were willing to serve God with all their hearts” (Mosiah 21:35). Those who serve God with all their might are sanctified: “And we know also, that sanctification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true, to all those who love and serve God with all their mights, minds, and strength” (D&C; 20:31).

When we cease serving God we turn away and serve other gods, as is stated repeatedly throughout the Old Testament: “Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them” (Deut. 11:16). We do not stop serving gods, we just stop serving the True and Living God. “When ye have transgressed the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed yourselves to them; then shall the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and ye shall perish quickly from off the good land which he hath given unto you” (Josh. 23:16). Ceasing to serve God is a sign of wickedness. It is not pleasing to the Lord. Why does God want us to serve Him though? Through our service to Him, He is able to fulfill His purposes. What are those purposes? “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). He wants us to serve Him so that He can sanctify us and help us return to live with Him. Serving God helps us become more like Him.

Link to part 5 of this essay.

Lessons from Death, Part 2

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When I was 15 the cousin I was closest to – in age and in friendship – took his own life. I spent a lot of time with Tanner over the years. He attended scouts with me because his ward didn’t have a very active scouting program. I spent countless hours and days playing with him on campouts, sleep-overs, reunions, and other activities. I even copied his Eagle Scout project. During the summer of 1995 I had planned on spending 3 weeks as a member of the Geronimo Scout Camp staff. I spent 3 weeks the previous year as a member of the staff of the camp; I had a great time. 1995 was different. I didn’t enjoy my time there. After only a few days I was miserable. The scout troop from my ward was up there that week (as was my father) so I decided to leave early and go home with them – two weeks early. I quickly learned why I needed to be home; I believe my discomfort and misery were meant to help me be home when I needed to be home.

The night I came home, a Saturday, one of my sisters woke me up in the middle of the night to say that my cousin Tanner had hung himself. I’m normally groggy when I wake up but I was wide awake then; I was in a bit of shock. I walked into the front room and lied down on the couch. I don’t know if I cried very much then. I actually don’t think I ever really cried much about Tanner’s death. I don’t know why, I’m normally quite emotional about things (and it is worse the older I get). It is likely that his death was accidental – that he really didn’t mean to kill himself; he may have just been playing what he thought was a game. It was a dangerous game and he died. His parents and sister were devastated; I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone suffer as much as Tanner’s mother, my aunt, did. I’ve missed Tanner over these years but I know that I’ll see him again in the life to come. He made a choice and he died but there is great hope for Tanner. That’s one of the beauties of the gospel – it provides hope.

A year or two after Tanner died a young man in my ward shot himself. While I had never been a good friend of his, we were in scouting together and went to church and school together (he was a year younger than me). He lived just down the street from me. Following Max’s death we had ward and stake youth meetings where we talked about his death and suicide in general. One of the only Priest quorum lessons I explicitly remember was taught by his father (he was our young men’s president) following Max’s death. He talked about coming home from church and finding his son dead. He spoke of how Max’s choice put him on a much more difficult road to eternal life than it otherwise would have been. Through the sadness, Max’s father expressed hope for his son. I’ll never forget that lesson. It was a moving and a powerful experience.

The next death of a friend occurred when I was serving as an LDS missionary. One of my freshman roommates at BYU (and also a friend from high school) was killed when a truck hit the taxi he was in. Eric was serving as a missionary in Argentina at the time. He, like Evan, was a person who had a brightness in him. I found about his death in a letter from my parents. My companion and I had spent the morning tracting without success. It was a warm but cloudy April morning in Seattle. The gray skies always made all the greens and other colors appear so much more intense. The spring day was lovely with apple and cherry blossoms floating gently down from the sky like a light snow. When we walked through the blossoms on the ground, they swirled around our shoes like hundreds of delicate butterflies trying to take flight. It was one of the most serene and beautiful sights I have ever seen. We walked along tree-lined roads near the coast of the Puget Sound – up and down the steep hills sharing a message of hope and restoration but no one was listening; no one was interested. They were very kind to us though. I thought it ironic that so much rejection of our message occurred on such a beautiful day. To add to the drama, I was bitten on my right thigh by a dog as my companion and I walked up a driveway. It wasn’t a large bite but I was bleeding and my pants had a small tear in them. We finished tracting the area 45 minutes later then walked home so I could get cleaned up.

All the way home I kept thinking, “How can this day get any worse? I bet I could be hit by a car or something on my walk home. That would be worse.” Sometimes it helps me feel better if I imagine worse things happening. Then I realize my life isn’t so bad. I spent the whole way home wondering how my day could get worse; it got worse. I opened the letter from my parents only to read that my friend Eric had been killed in an accident. I was shocked. I was speechless. I was heart-broken. I sobbed for 5 minutes. However, during this time all I could think about is how Heavenly Father must have felt as He watched His beloved Son suffer and then be killed in a most gruesome manner. I prayed for the comfort of Eric’s family; I prayed for my own comfort. Then suddenly, after those 5 minutes, the pain was gone. My sorrow was intense but brief. I was still sad but there was no pain. I knew Eric died doing the Lord’s work and was now in a much brighter world still doing the Lord’s work. As a side note, not coincidentally, my companion at the time also had a friend killed in an accident while he was serving a mission. He was able to understand what I was going through. The Lord understands our needs and places other people in our lives to help fill those needs.

Not too long after I got home from my mission – the following summer, in fact – I found out that my friend Donald, who also was one of my roommates my freshman year at BYU, had been killed in a farming accident. Once again, I was shocked. Donald was very personable. He was so interested in other people – in meeting them and getting to know them. As a freshman in college, many of the people he wanted to get to know were girls, but he was very good with people in general. He was fun to be around. He was also a good person. Two of my freshman year roommates were dead; they both died in tragic accidents. I hoped the trend did not continue.

Link to part 1 of this post.

Who’s On the Lord’s Side? – Part 2

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Throughout history, in life, in literature, and in dreams the theme of making a binary choice is very common. The prophet Lehi saw in vision the tree of life. Leading up to this tree was a path by an iron rod. The choice had to be made to grasp the rod of iron and follow the path to the tree of life or not hold on to the iron rod and wander, lost in the midst of darkness, eventually finding the way to the great and spacious building, the river of filthiness, or the iron rod and tree of life. There are only two choices: hold on or not hold on.

Robert Frost wrote these words about choosing one’s path:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

As an LDS missionary in the Southern States mission in the late 1800s, John Morgan was on his way one day to preach in a town. He had an appointment to preach there at a particular time. As he walked down the road, it split off by a large tree into two roads, one heading towards his destination and the other heading to some other place. In this moment he recalled a dream he had some years ago when he was not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was staying at a boarding house in Salt Lake City.

One night he dreamed that he was walking down a forested road. He was in a hurry, on his way to something important. In his dream he came to a fork in the road. Next to a large tree, Brigham Young stood waiting for John. Seeing the prophet, John stopped. Brother Brigham said, “Don’t go right; take the road to the left.” John woke up and was perplexed about the meaning of his dream. He asked the woman he was staying with if she could help him interpret his dream. Like Joseph did for Pharaoh, she interpreted his dream. “One day you will be a missionary for the Church. You will walk down that road and come to that fork and that tree. Pres. Young will not be there but you make sure you take the road he indicated.”

Sure enough, the time came that John was a missionary on that road, at that fork, and by that tree. Brigham Young was not there but John took the road to the left, even though his appointment was down the other road. He came upon a village. As he knocked on doors people let him in, feeding him and giving him a place to stay. Then a remarkable thing happened. John preached to the people. As he went house to house the response was the same. Almost all of the people had a stranger visit their homes a few days before. This stranger had taught them the gospel and marked various passages in their scriptures. He explained that shortly another man would be there who would explain more about the scriptures. This man then left – no one saw him again. John was able to teach and baptize nearly the whole town. They were prepared and John made the choice to follow spiritual promptings (and the wise inspiration of others); because of this, he was able to share the gospel with many people. Two roads diverged and John took the one that made all the difference.