What do I do now?

Questions

What do I tell my boys now? Where is the example of standing by values and convictions? Can I trust that my boys will be safe from ridicule and persecution as we camp? How do I help them face the growing evil in the world? These questions and many like them have been crowding my mind this evening after I heard that the Boy Scouts of America decided today to amend it’s long standing adult leadership policy to “[remove] the national restriction on openly gay adult leaders and employees.”

scout-leader-young-men-1151653-wallpaper (1)

I have been associated with scouting for most of my life. When I was eight-years-old I joined as a cub scout and throughout my youth participated in scouting. I am an Eagle Scout and I have credited my scouting experiences as some that have shaped who I am and the way that I see the world. In my adult life I have continued my association with scouting. The National Eagle Scout association paid for me to go to school through their generous scholarship program. I have served as a merit badge counselor, on the cub committee and I am currently serving as a Scoutmaster in my local troop. I have tried to live the standards outlined in the Scout Oath and the Scout Law and have tried to model these values for the boys that I work with every week.

I am deeply troubled and saddened by the choice of the BSA National Executive Board to allow openly gay scout leaders to serve. I believe that this is the wrong decision for the BSA to make. Scouting is an organization whose methods, I believe, are some of the best at teaching boys strong values. I believe that the principles embodied in the Scout Oath and Law are timeless and moral. Because of this belief, it is hard for me to accept that an organization that has morality and Duty to God at its core could take a step such as this.

There are two reasons that, for me, this is a troubling development. First is the actions taken by the leadership of the organization at the national level and second is my experience with my boys after the membership policy for youth membership changed several years ago. I will address both topics.

Robert Gates Should Have Kept His Word

When Robert Gates was first selected as president of the BSA, he said the following:

“I believe strongly that to re-open the membership issue or try to take last year’s decision to the next step would irreparably fracture and perhaps even provoke a formal, permanent split in this movement — with the high likelihood neither side would subsequently survive on its own. That is just a fact of life. And who would pay the price for destroying the Boy Scouts of America? Millions of scouts today and scouts yet unborn. We must always put the kids and their interests first. Thus, during my time as President, I will oppose any effort to re-open this issue.” — Robert Gates, 2013, emphasis added

Now, a mere two years later Robert Gates has not only completely reneged on this commitment, but he has actually led the change to re-open this issue that in his own words may “provoke a formal, permanent split in this movement.”

How can I teach my boys that they are to be trustworthy, loyal, and brave when the president of their organization blatantly demonstrates that he is none of these on this important issue? The “reasons” are plenty he says that the policy must change. Sure there are social pressures — there are even lawsuits. There are groups that are openly defaming the Boy Scouts for their policy. However, if there is to be something that destroys the Boy Scouts of America I would much prefer it be pressures from the outside that force the organization to die rather than the organization imploding due to social pressure because we chose not to stand by our moral convictions.

 

The Boys Were Bullied and Harassed

scouts-leader-compasses-959599-wallpaperIn 2013, just weeks after the membership policy was amended to allow gay youth in scouting (a change that I understood and even partially agreed with), my boys and I headed to our summer scout camp. We were expecting to have a great week full of water sports, rifle shooting, archery, wilderness survival, rock climbing and just about any other adventure you could want to have as a boy (or as a man for that matter!).

Not more than a day into the program we began to realize the very real effect that the policy change was having on our youth’s experience at camp. While boys were at the water front and when they were in the showers they were taunted and teased by other boys attending camp. They were asked if they were gay. Other boys reviled and persecuted them when they did not want to talk about it and tried to dodge the question. Boys were openly speaking of lewd actions.

Now a certain amount of this can be attributed to boys just being boys. I usually expect to have to deal with a certain amount of potty talk at camp. These things happen when you get a bunch of 12-13 year olds together. This was much, much worse. The staff of the camp was totally at a loss and had no idea how to deal with the problem. They were confronted with the difficulty of the membership policy in their faces, and this ruined camp for many of my boys that year. The actions of the scouts at that camp resulted in multiple reports to scout executives and review by the adult leaders at camp. I am happy to report that we have not had a similar experience in our other years at camp since that experience.

I worry that with this change in policy these types of experiences will come more and more often. I will have to worry about what boys from troops that do allow gay leaders may say or do to my boys. My boys will have to be taught to be resilient and to stand on their own. They will have to be taught that sometimes they have to stand utterly alone in the face of ridicule and political correctness. They will be confronted by questions of sexuality in places and situations that should have been safe havens for these boys.

I hope and pray that I am over reacting and that men and women of good faith can come together and continue to provide the scouting program to my children’s generation. I know that in the end God is at the helm. My church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has long been a proponent of scouting is reviewing its position. I trust that whatever the outcome, God will provide a way for our young men to develop into the men of God that this world so desperately needs.

Keeping our baptismal covenants

Today I taught a lesson to the deacon’s quorum at church. The topic of the lesson was “What covenants did I make at baptism?” I had been really busy this week and sadly didn’t get to preparing my lesson until Sunday morning. I was struggling to figure out what to talk about when I had an inspiration from the Holy Ghost to share a story about my ancestor Christian Hans Monson who joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Norway in the 1800’s I have always loved this story and I wanted to share it with my deacons as an example of someone who kept his baptismal covenants. I thought it would be a good story to tell but I was completely unprepared for the way that I was touched as I shared this story to these young men today. As I was sharing the story, I was overcome by gratitude for what this man had done for me in choosing to join the church. The spirit filled the room as I recounted his story of conversion and of his courage in standing up for what he knew to be true. I admire and respect this great man and hope to live in such a way as to honor his name.

Christian Hans Monson 16 June 1837 – 23 September 1896
Christian Hans Monson
16 June 1837 – 23 September 1896

I wanted to share his story here for you to enjoy. This version actually originally appeared in The Friend magazine in 1976 and you can find the original here.

Christian fingered the key in his pocket as he walked toward the jail. It had taken months of study and prayer before he had finally decided to use that key for something more important than just opening the jail door so he could carry meals to those who were held there as prisoners.

Almost all the men in the jailhouse were Mormon missionaries. Many of them had sailed into the Port of Frederikstad in a pilot boat they had fitted up and named Sions Löve (Zion’s Lion) so that they could easily travel to coastal areas of the Scandinavian Mission, then including all of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.

At first Christian hadn’t paid much attention to the missionaries, for he was busy learning the catechism so he could correctly answer any questions he might be asked by the priest at the confirmation service that was soon to be held for prospective young members of the Lutheran Church. He was not concerned about the fact that almost as soon as any Mormon missionaries arrived in Frederikstad they were arrested.

Lutheranism was the national religion of Norway and missionaries who taught other doctrines were promptly jailed, some for only a few weeks, others for many months. During this time they frequently were taken to court and almost forced to renounce their religion and declare allegiance to the national church of Norway. Refusing to do so, they were then returned to their quarters.

Christian worked for the warden of the jail who instructed him to heckle and be as unpleasant as possible to the prisoners when he carried meals to them. This seemed like fun until one day a young missionary said, “Why do you talk and act as you do? Remember that so persecuted they the Christ and His followers in Bible times.”

The startled boy asked him to explain what he meant, so two of the elders began talking about the gospel and gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon.

Every night as Christian studied for his confirmation examination, he also studied the Book of Mormon, comparing it with his Bible and the Lutheran catechism. As the truthfulness of the restored gospel became more and more apparent to him, Christian prayed to know what he should do. Since no answer came before the confirmation date, he purposely failed the examination and then made application to take it again in six months.

Thinking back over his months of prayer and study, Christian knew what he must do. He finally decided to use his key to the prison to let the two missionaries out of jail long enough to go with him to a nearby fjord so he could be baptized and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Afterward the three walked back to the jailhouse where the elders returned to their room and Christian turned the key in the lock to their cell.

Because of the persecution toward members of the Church throughout Norway, and also because he knew how angry his father would be, Christian did not tell anyone of the thrilling event that had taken place on that cold winter night of 1852. He knew he would not be able to make his stern father understand what he had done. He tried to talk with his mother but she would not listen. When the next confirmation service was held, Christian honored his application and appeared for his examination with the other prospective young Lutherans.

“Do you believe in God?” was the first question asked by the priest.

“Oh, yes,” Christian answered quickly.

“Can you describe Him?” was the next question.

“I know He is a Being with body, parts, and passions,” Christian replied. “I also know He does not sit on the top of a topless throne. I know our Heavenly Father is good and kind, that He sees, hears, and answers prayers. I know we are made in His image as was His Son Jesus Christ.”

The priest was surprised by this description but continued with the examination, becoming more and more amazed with the answers Christian gave. As the boy glanced at his father he could see that he was very upset. Finally, the priest said angrily, “You answer as if you belonged to that sect known as Mormons.”

“I do,” Christian said, “and I’m proud of it!”

At this declaration, Christian’s father arose from his seat near the front of the Church and rushed up the aisle and out the door, striking his cane hard against the floor with every step he took. Confused and embarrassed, Christian’s mother followed her husband, and their son was abruptly dismissed.

Christian went home wanting to talk with his parents, but he was afraid of what they would say. Having carried his usual armful of wood into the house that night, Christian was piling it near the fireplace when his father came into the room. At the sight of his son who he felt had disgraced him, Christian’s father struck him with his cane and then began to beat him. At last, panting for breath, his father laid the merciless cane on the table.

“Oh, Father,” Christian said quietly, “it feels good to be whipped for the gospel’s sake.”

At these words, the father became even more furious. He picked up stick after stick of firewood and hurled them at Christian. When the wood was gone, he opened the door and shouted, “Get out of my house. I never want to see you again!”

Bruised and bleeding from the beating and the wood that had been thrown at him, Christian dragged himself out to the barn where he threw himself upon the hay. Late that night after her husband was asleep, Christian’s mother noiselessly tied a little food and a few of his belongings in a handkerchief and went out to the barn. Tearfully she treated her son’s injuries as well as she could.

“Why, oh why, did you do this thing, Christian?” she pleaded heartbrokenly.

“Because I had to, Mother,” Christian replied. “I have studied and prayed and I know this is the only true Church. I tried to tell you but you would not listen to me. I cannot deny what I know, Mother. If I did, it would be to deny Jesus Christ, our Savior, and I cannot do that.”

“If, as you say, you know this is right, my boy,” his mother told him, “then you must stand firm. But oh, how my heart aches.”

When the first streaks of dawn appeared in the sky, Christian’s mother crept back into the house. Christian picked up the little bundle she had brought to him and started walking down the road. As he passed his house he breathed a good-bye to his parents, for he knew he would never see them again.

Christian Hans Monson didn’t know where he would go or what he could do. “But I have a testimony,” the fourteen-year-old boy said to himself. “Whatever happens, I can never deny that. And I know that because of my testimony, all will be well.”

Why do Mormons Revere Joseph Smith So Much?

Last year my wife and I spent a lot of our time with a real estate agent as we shopped for our first home. For a few months we went out with this agent and viewed home after home. Through this process we began to develop a friendship with this man. We learned that he was a God-fearing Christian who was active in his local Baptist congregation. I enjoyed asking him questions about how his church operated and what some of his beliefs were. We enjoyed a very open conversation during these house-shopping excursions, and I learned a lot. Through these conversations this good man learned that I was an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons.) Discussions about the many similarities between our two faiths and church organizations became common between us. One day on our drive he asked me, “Why do Mormons revere Joseph Smith so much?”  I would like today to try to give my answer to that question.

Joseph Smith the Prophet
Joseph Smith the Prophet

To start you have to understand God’s pattern of calling prophets throughout the ages. Almost all of the scriptures we have recorded in the Bible are the writings of prophets. God uses prophets as a conduit to teach His children on earth what they should do and how they should act. He also uses prophets to warn and teach people about His doings. In fact, the prophet Amos teaches us that “surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). In other words, before God will do anything to or for His people, He will tell the prophets about it.

You might think that a single prophet would suffice to tell us all of God’s will. All prophets do teach the same basic principles of God’s gospel: faith, repentance, obedience, baptism, etc; however, each of them also has a specific mission given to them that is of particular importance to the people living at that time. This can be seen in the examples of many of the prophets in the Old Testament as well as with Christ’s Apostles in the New Testament. Take, for example, Jonah after he had already been eaten by the “big fish” and decided that he probably should to go Nineveh to fulfill the mission God had given him (Jonah 2). God specifically called Jonah to warn the people of Nineveh that they needed to repent of the evil that they were doing or they would be destroyed. Jonah taught the principles of the gospel, specifically repentance, but also the imminent destruction of the people if they did not follow God’s commandments. If Jonah had been the only prophet that God ever called we might be confused as to what was really important from his message. Was the destruction part the most important or the repentance part? Obviously, some of Jonah’s teachings were general and some were very specific to the time and place to which Jonah was called.

Because situations have differed from place to place and from time to time throughout history, God has called prophets to teach the people in many places and times. God has called these prophets because He loves all of His children and wants all of them to be able to return to Him.  He has given prophets specific instructions about what to teach and often has given these prophets specific commandments that are particular to their time. People rely on prophets not only to teach them eternal principles of the gospel but also for help in understanding how to navigate the challenges and difficulties that are particular to a certain age of history.

I believe that God is an unchanging being. Historically, God has called prophets, and because He is perfect and unchanging, it follows that He must follow His pattern and continue to call prophets. This is where Joseph Smith comes in. I believe that, like the prophets in the Bible, Joseph Smith is a prophet. His being a prophet is completely consistent with the pattern that God has established through history of calling prophets and giving them missions to complete relative to the salvation of men in their times.

Joseph Smith was born in 1805 in upstate New York. By the time he was 14, he had moved with his family to the small town of Palmyra, New York. In Palmyra there was a huge excitement about religion. There were pastors from many different churches, each saying that their churches were true. Being confused about the conflicting views of these different churches, Joseph turned to the Bible for help. After searching and study he found a verse in James that said, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” Joseph said that when he read this verse, it had a great influence on him. He decided to do as James directed and ask God which of all the churches was right and which one he should join. He went to a grove of trees early one spring morning to pray and ask God for an answer to this question. In that grove of trees that morning God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared as distinct Personages and answered Joseph’s prayer. He described the experience:

“I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him.” (Joseph Smith History)

“I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air.”

Through this vision and subsequent visions and heavenly visitations, Joseph Smith was called as a modern-day prophet. Just like the prophets of the Old and New Testaments, he was given information and revelations from God on how to address the particular concerns of this modern age. Through Joseph Smith, God restored the pure form and authority of His Church as it originally existed in the time of Christ and the Apostles. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the same organization and authority as the ancient Church did with prophets and apostles in historic times. Its belief and faith are centered on Jesus Christ who is the author and finisher of our faith.

Because of his pivotal role in restoring this Church and authority, Mormons revere Joseph Smith. We tend to speak of him more than ancient prophets because we believe that he is a prophet for our time. The basic principles of the gospel that were taught by ancient prophets were also taught by Joseph Smith and continue to be taught in the Church today by those who have been called of God as prophets in our modern times. Mormons revere the ancient prophets from the Bible and also from the Book of Mormon; however, we also believe that we should give particular heed to the prophets that are speaking the will of the Lord in our time.

I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I know that he saw what he said he saw in that grove of trees. I know that the authority he received from God is the true authority of God. I know that by following the counsel of modern prophets we can avoid many of the calamities and difficulties that will confront us in these challenging times. I know that every person who asks God in faith can also have this witness through the power of the Holy Ghost.

Please feel free to comment and ask questions.

Wait on the Lord

Patience is an interesting quality. It has been described as “the capacity to endure delay,trouble, opposition, or suffering without becoming angry, frustrated, or anxious.” Most people know that they need to learn to be patient but when it comes down to learning to be patient it is often more difficult than it seems it should be. I’ve been blessed in my life to have many experiences that have helped me to develop patience.

While I was serving my LDS mission in the Philippines, I had to learn to deal with people that I didn’t get along with well. I also learned that people have their agency and that no matter what I did, sometimes they would choose to not follow the things that I was teaching them. More recently I was taught patience when a trip home to see my family for an important even didn’t go as planned.

Patience is an especially important virtue when we desire a blessing from the Lord. Sometimes it is difficult for people that believe in the promises of God to understand why He doesn’t bless them with the righteous desires of their hearts when they want Him to. Learning to have patience with the Lord can be particularly difficult and requires faith and diligence in following the commandments of God.

In Psalms 27: 14 David says that we are to “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” When we want any blessing from God, it is important that we realize that we need to wait for His timing in receiving that blessing.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks quoted Neil A. Maxwell saying,

“The issue for us is trusting God enough to trust His timing. If we can truly believe He has our welfare at heart, may we not let His plans unfold as He thinks best? The same is true with the second coming and with all those matters wherein our faith needs to include faith in the Lord’s timing for us personally, not just His overall plans and purposes.”

So the key to learning to patiently wait on the Lord is to have faith in the Lord’s timing. I know that as we learn to have faith in the Lord’s timing in our lives that we can live richer, fuller, happier lives. If we are constantly questioning why we aren’t getting this or that blessing that we feel we deserve, then we will never learn to be happy. If we have this negative, scarcity-based mindset we will always live lives of scarcity.  If, however, we choose to rejoice in the blessings that are ours and focus on the abundance of blessings in our lives we will be better able to wait on the Lord for blessings that he has promised will be ours.

“O Love That Will Not Let Me Go”

In Concert Choir we are singing a piece with this title. It is a beautiful piece and speaks of some of the deep longings and desires of the soul. The text is by George Matheson and the music for our setting is by Joseph M. Martin.  This song speaks to me on many levels and I’ve included the text here for you. I’ve found it helpful when thinking about this text to ask myself: what is the Love that will not let me go?  Why do I have to yield my flickering torch? What is the sunshine’s blaze? What is the meaning of the rainbow that we’re tracing through the rain?

O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths
Its flow may richer, fuller be.

O Light that follows all my way,
I yield my flick’ring torch to Thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in the sunshine’s blaze
Its day may brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seeks me through my pain,
I cannot close my heart to Thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And know the promise is not vain,
That morn will tearless be.

O Cross that raises up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from Thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

My “Trip” to Scotland?

Hotmail Logo

Several weeks ago I tried to access my Hotmail account and found that the password had changed. I tried several passwords and none of them worked! Microsoft was supposed to have a way to recover the account by answering a question but the answer to my secret question had also been changed. I was a bit worried about this because I had recently started using Live Mesh to keep my documents synchronized between my several computers. I hoped that there was just a technical problem and that my data was either lost completely or at least not compromised.  I tried several other ways to recover my account with no success.

Then a few days ago the story got even better. I never used that account for email, only to sync documents, so you can imagine my surprise when I got an email from a good friend on my real email account telling me that he though my Hotmail account had been hacked! He said that he had received the following email from “me!” The email is one of those classic scam emails and so I’m including it here. There are tons of problems with this email and I would never send such a thing.

I’m sorry for this odd request because it might get to you too urgent but it’s because of the situation of things right now.

I’m stuck in Scotland with family right now, we came down here on family vacation, we were robbed, worse of it is that bags, cash and cards and our cell phone were stolen at GUN POINT,and it’s hard to get hold of a phone here in Scotland it’s such a crazy experience for us, we need help flying back home, the authorities are not being 100% supportive but the good thing is we still have our passport but don’t have enough money to get our flight ticket back home, please i need you to loan us some money.

All we need is $2,500.00 but anything you can spare right now will be appreciated and I promise to refund it to you as soon as I arrive back home safely.. You have my word!

Thanks,

Well, I obviously wasn’t in Scotland. Also . . . how was I able to access a computer to send an email but couldn’t find a phone to use? Did I have a laptop with me? Well if I did, why didn’t the thief take that too. I don’t know! I guess it will remain a mystery.  Anyway, the moral of the story is: change your passwords often.

P.S.  I may not be the best writer, but my grammar is not that bad!