Sunday, September 28, 2008

Family and the sanctity of marriage

Legal battles are looming in the drive to define what is a family and what unions are allowed to be called marriage. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' stance on this issue is unequivocal, and it can be found here.

It states in part:

"The California Supreme Court recently ruled that same-sex marriage was legal in California. Recognizing the importance of marriage to society, the Church accepted an invitation to participate in ProtectMarriage, a coalition of churches, organizations, and individuals sponsoring a November ballot measure, Proposition 8, that would amend the California state constitution to ensure that only a marriage between a man and a woman would be legally recognized. (Information about the coalition can be found at ProtectMarriage.com.

On June 20, 2008, the First Presidency of the Church distributed a letter about “Preserving Traditional Marriage and Strengthening Families,” announcing the Church’s participation with the coalition. The letter, which was read in Latter-day Saints’ church services in California, asked that Church members “do all [they] can to support the proposed constitutional amendment.”

Members of the Church in Arizona and Florida will also be voting on constitutional amendments regarding marriage in their states, where coalitions similar to California’s are now being formed.

The focus of the Church’s involvement is specifically same-sex marriage and its consequences. The Church does not object to rights (already established in California) regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the family or the constitutional rights of churches and their adherents to administer and practice their religion free from government interference.

The Church has a single, undeviating standard of sexual morality: intimate relations are proper only between a husband and a wife united in the bonds of matrimony.

The Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage neither constitutes nor condones any kind of hostility towards homosexual men and women. Protecting marriage between a man and a woman does not affect Church members’ Christian obligations of love, kindness and humanity toward all people."

Please take the time to read the entire article. If you do it will become evident that the church's stance is not anti-gay, as some might claim, but rather it is pro-family. It cites several examples of the benefits to having both a father and a mother in the home. It discusses the alarming rate of homes where children are raised by a single parent.

David Blankenhorn in Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem states: "The United States is becoming an increasingly fatherless society. A generation ago, an American child could reasonably expect to grow up with his or her father. Today, an American child can reasonably expect not to. Fatherlessness is now approaching a rough parity with fatherhood as a defining feature of American childhood.

This astonishing fact is reflected in many statistics, but here are the two most important. Tonight, about 40 percent of American children will go to sleep in homes in which their fathers do not live. Before they reach the age of eighteen, more than half of our nation's children are likely to spend at least a significant portion of their childhood living apart from their fathers. Never before in this country have so many children been voluntarily abandoned by their fathers. Never before have so many children grown up without knowing what it means to have a father.

Fatherlessness is the most harmful demographic trend of this generation. It is the leading cause of declining child well-being in our society. It is also the engine driving our most urgent social problems, from crime to adolescent pregnancy to child sexual abuse to domestic violence against women. Yet, despite its scale and social consequences, fatherlessness is a problem that is frequently ignored or denied. Especially within our elite discourse, it remains largely a problem with no name."

David Popenoe In his book, Life Without Fathers, states: "The decline of fatherhood is one of the most basic, unexpected and extraordinary trends of our time. Its dimensions can be captured in a single statistic: In just three decades, between 1960 and 1990, the percentage of children living apart from their biological fathers more than doubled, from 17 percent to 36 percent. By the turn of the century, nearly 50 percent of American children may be going to sleep each evening without being able to say good night to their dads.

No one predicted this trend; few researchers or government agencies have monitored it; and it is not widely discussed, even today. But the decline of fatherhood is a major force behind many of the most disturbing problems that plague American society: crime; premature sexuality and out-of-wedlock births to teenagers; deteriorating educational achievement; depression, substance abuse and alienation among adolescents; and the growing number of women and children in poverty."

As the definition of marriage changes and is trivialized, the sanctity of human life decreases.

According to Wikipedia, the current population in the United States is 305,275,000. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 45,000,000 legal abortions were performed between 1973 and 2005. That number is an eye popping 15% of the total population.

NPR reports that in recent court battles between religious and same sex groups, that religions are losing. Some of the examples they cited include:

"Adoption services: Catholic Charities in Massachusetts refused to place children with same-sex couples as required by Massachusetts law. After a legislative struggle — during which the Senate president said he could not support a bill "condoning discrimination" — Catholic Charities pulled out of the adoption business in 2006.

Medical services: A Christian gynecologist at North Coast Women's Care Medical Group in Vista, Calif., refused to give his patient in vitro fertilization treatment because she is in a lesbian relationship, and he claimed that doing so would violate his religious beliefs. (The doctor referred the patient to his partner, who agreed to do the treatment.) The woman sued under the state's civil rights act. The California Supreme Court heard oral arguments in May 2008, and legal experts believe that the woman's right to medical treatment will trump the doctor's religious beliefs. One justice suggested that the doctors take up a different line of business.

Wedding facilities: Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association of New Jersey, a Methodist organization, refused to rent its boardwalk pavilion to a lesbian couple for their civil union ceremony. The couple filed a complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. The division ruled that the boardwalk property was open for public use, therefore the Methodist group could not discriminate against gay couples using it. In the interim, the state's Department of Environmental Protection revoked a portion of the association's tax benefits. The case is ongoing."

Tell me, what happens when a gay couple decides that they want to be married inside of an LDS chapel, or temple? At the moment, I can't see how such a thing would be allowed. However, legal precedent is being made with frightening forward looking possibilities.

Heavenly Father loves all of his children regardless of the choices they make in life. However, He has given us commandments, that if we follow, will bless our lives.

His commandments are designed and intended to increase our joy and peace.

One of the greatest gifts we have been given on earth are families. As we continue to confuse what defines a family or a marriage, we reject the blessings He wants to give us.

What can we do?

Go to ProtectMarriage.com and sign up.

If you live in California, vote in favor of Prop 8 and encourage others to do likewise.

Arizona and Florida have similar ballot issues this fall. If you live there, vote in favor of them.

Write letters to your governmental legislators telling them that you support the definition of marriage being defined as a union between one man and one woman.

Donate of your means and times to support the ballot initiatives.

Monday, September 22, 2008

No witness until after the trial of your faith: Ether 12:6

6 And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.

(Book of Mormon | Ether 12:6)

Following along with the last post about instant gratification, here we are told that the reward comes AFTER the trial of our faith. So often we hear in movies and on TV, and perhaps we even said to ourselves, “Lord just give me a sign.”

We want the sign first. Only after the Lord has shown us that He exists we will try to do what He wants. That’s a little bit of putting the cart before the horse. Signs, in and of themselves, do not create faith. Otherwise I think that Pharaoh would’ve released the children of Israel much sooner than he did. Jesus performed many miracles while He was on earth, and then the people crucified Him.

There is a very sacrilegious movie in the theatres at the moment. The maker of the movie styles himself as a comedian and authority figure on various subjects, like religion and politics. I heard him recently on a talk show asking a Christian, “Do you really think that a serpent spoke to a person?” i.e. he was referencing the Garden of Eden.

My response to that would be that I think that he is trying to find reasons for doubt, when he should be looking for reasons to believe. A person that is looking for reasons to doubt will always find them. It doesn’t make them right.

Examine the world around you. Look out at the stars in the heavens, and at the human body in all of its intricacies. If God created those, would it really be that difficult to make a serpent speak?

For the record, I think that the serpent was figurative and not literal, BUT EVEN IF IT WASN”T, it’s still small potatoes for Him who created everything.

Look for reasons to believe and you will find them.

Yesterday, Candace Salima wrote an excellent article on personal revelation. It can be found here.. It is well worth the investment in time to read it.

As we move forward in faith, diligently striving to do the Lord’s will instead of our own, we will see His subtle hand in our lives. I bear witness that I have seen it in mine.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Marshmallows and instant gratification: Ether 12:4-5



4 Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.
5 And it came to pass that Ether did prophesy great and marvelous things unto the people, which they did not believe, because they saw them not.

(Book of Mormon | Ether 12:4 - 5)

These verses make me think about the importance of delayed gratification. We live in a society of instant gratification and disposable resources. Make no mistake, I like the fact that if I want to know something I can type a few keystrokes in Google and get an answer. That access to knowledge wasn’t available just a short while ago.

However, that ability to get whatever we want so quickly has led to a "me first" mentality. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die, is the mantra for most of society. If it feels good do it.

These two short verses remind me that sometimes I need to put aside my instant gratification with a “hope for a better world…”

I remember hearing about a study performed several years ago about children, marshmallows, and future SAT scores. Since I too like instant gratification at times, I went into Google, and typed “marshmallows and SAT scores.”
Here’s what I found:

In one of the most amazing developmental studies ever conducted, Walter Michel of Stanford created a simple test of the ability of four year old children to control impulses and delay gratification. Children were taken one at a time into a room with a one-way mirror. They were shown a marshmallow. The experimenter told them he had to leave and that they could have the marshmallow right then, but if they waited for the experimenter to return from an errand, they could have two marshmallows. One marshmallow was left on a table in front of them. Some children grabbed the available marshmallow within seconds of the experimenter leaving. Others waited up to twenty minutes for the experimenter to return. In a follow-up study (Shoda, Mischel, & Peake, 1990), children were tested at 18 years of age and comparisons were made between the third of the children who grabbed the marshmallow (the "impulsive") and the third who delayed gratification in order to receive the enhanced reward ("impulse controlled").

The third of the children who were most impulsive at four years of age scored an average of 524 verbal and 528 math. The impulse controlled students who scored 610 verbal and 652 math! This astounding 210 point total score difference on the SAT was predicted on the basis of a single observation at four years of age! The 210 point difference is as large as the average differences between that of economically advantaged versus disadvantaged children and is larger than the difference between children from families with graduate degrees versus children whose parents did not finish high school! At four years of age gobbling a marshmallow now v. waiting for two later is twice as good a predictor of later SAT scores than is IQ.

Might I suggest that we’re all 4 year olds? We’re enduring our time where we’ve been told that if we resist the urge to indulge our baser desires for just a short while that we will be richly rewarded for doing so. If we deny ourselves all ungodliness and place our trust and faith in Him who is mighty to save, we will be blessed.

So what do you think? Should we just eat our marshmallows now, or should we hold off for a bit for the promise and sure hope of better marshmallows down the road?

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Santa Letters


Christmas is by far my favorite time of year. In fact, if you were to check my I-Tunes account you’d see that I have 6.3 hours of Christmas music loaded that I listen to year round.

I was quite thrilled then when I was asked to be part of a virtual tour for a new book called, The Santa Letters. My expectations for a Christmas story are high and this book did not disappoint. Stacy Gooch-Anderson has created a classic that will be read and re-read for years to come.

From the book’s jacket:

One year ago on Christmas Eve, William died. For Emma Jensen, the hit-and-run driver killed more than her husband; he killed her joy in Christmas and in every other day of the year.

Now, as Christmas approaches again, Emma finds herself sinking into a depression that nothing can breach – not her job, not her love for her family, and certainly not the season. The Jensen children understand that Christmas will be strained this year – all except 6-year-old McKenna. Of all the family, only she still believes in the magic of Christmas, and in miracles.

But that is about to change.

When an ornate letter and a mysterious package arrive on the doorstep, Emma and her sons find themselves joining McKenna on a magical journey to Christmas. Each day, a package and a letter signed Santa arrive for the Jensens, and as the meaning of the Santa Letters unfold, the Jensens come to realize that the joy of Christmas does not have to be lost forever – and that William may be closer than they think.

This year, the Santa Letters will take the Jensens on a Christmas experience that will show God’s love can heal any wound, no matter how deep.

The book grabbed my attention from the very beginning and didn’t let go until the last page. I went on a rollercoaster ride of emotions as I felt the Jensens’ grief and pain slowly replaced by hope and healing.

When I finished The Santa Letters I was convinced that it will quickly become a must have Christmas book for all LDS homes.

Let me pause briefly here to state that I’m an accountant by profession. Accordingly, I love to gather as much data as possible to see what the data tells me. Those stories are usually told by numbers on balance sheets and profit and loss statements. I approached this task with the same methodology.

After finishing the book and knowing what my impression was, I handed the book to my wife to see what she thought. I didn’t give her my feelings of the book, I wanted an unbiased opinion. She started the book Sunday morning.

At church that day, my wife served as a sign language interpreter during sacrament meeting. The sister that she interprets for left after sacrament meeting and I looked forward to actually being able to sit next to my wife and enjoy Gospel Doctrine class together. Though we sat together, she didn’t really pay much attention to me. She didn’t pay that much attention to the teacher either. While the rest of us studied the book of Alma, she had The Santa Letters opened in her lap as she contentedly continued on the journey Stacy Gooch-Anderson created for her.

My wife loves Gospel Doctrine class. She studies the scriptures voraciously and always has input for the weekly lessons. The fact that she took the first opportunity she had to start reading again validated my own thoughts of the book. Once you start reading it, you will not want to put it down.

So now I had two data points giving the same results. I was curious if the book would have appeal outside of the LDS community. There are definite ideas and concepts in the book that are very “Mormon.”

I took the book to work with me and asked my boss if she would do me a favor. She smiled and looked at me waiting to see what the favor would be. When I asked her to read the book she responded, “I hate to read.”

She continued, “You don’t understand Dan, I always have a million things going on at once. When I try to read a book, I find at the end of the page that my mind has wandered to those things and I have to re-read almost every page to absorb it. A normal book will take me about ten months to complete.”

When she saw that the book wasn’t too thick she reluctantly took it and said that she would give it a try. Her very first thoughts were that she didn’t like sentences that begin with the word, “And.” I never noticed them in the book, but she did.

However, she finished the book in less than a week and said that she enjoyed it very much. Like me, she said that there were parts of the story that brought her to tears. You can’t help but be moved by the tender portrayal of a family that is struggling with this kind of loss. They learned as a family that the Lord’s strengths are greater than their weaknesses. As they put their trust in Him, they, like us, can find the ability to overcome any trial or tribulation.

Lastly, let me make two recommendations for reading this book. First, make sure that you have a box of tissues nearby when you start. Second, it would probably be best if you didn’t start reading the book Sunday morning before church.

Missionary e-mail 9-19-08

What a week! A lot of interesting things happened this week. Last Saturday we went to go do a service project at a member's house. They make houses out of cement and brick here so it was pretty tough work. There were some paid workers there to help and they mixed cement out front and we hauled the mixed cement in 5 gal. buckets to fill in the floor of the house. We also had to move some 110 lb bags of cement for them to mix... it was pretty tiring.

I learned this week that cement actually wears your skin away and cuts it open... I wish I would have brought gloves lol. I couldn't even believe how sore I was the next couple days. During the project, we had an interesting experience with the military police. I'll have to tell that one after the mission though :P

After I got home last friday, I got a phone call from the office. Next week I'll be going to an area called Arsenal which is here in belem. It is the next area over so its really close to the office and everything still. My companion will be Elder Beames who is a great friend of mine from my group. We will finish our missions the same day so I hope we can manage to not get too trunkie. Im really looking forward to working with him... he's a great guy.

My P-Day is now on Mondays like it was before so you have to remember to write me Sunday nights now. I won't have P-day next week because I'll still be here in the staff on Monday. I'll leave here on Wednesday. Don't forget to write me NEXT Sunday. OK?

Domingos and his mom will be baptized tomorrow. They are way excited. I hope I can baptize my goal next transfer and finish my mission strong. I gotta run. My time is running out here in the cyber. I love you all tons. Talk to you next Monday!

Love,
Elder Childs

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

X-Rays of my left elbow - 6 months post op

six months ago yesterday I was in a horrific accident that broke both of my elbows. My right elbow suffered only a hairline fracture, but I destroyed my left elbow.

This is what my elbow looked like 2 months post-op:



This is what my left elbow looks like today:



Though I still have quite a bit of hardware in my arm, the bone has healed very well. My suppination and pronation are about equal in both arms. I still feel a bit of a stretch in my left arm when I fully suppinate it, i.e. turn it palm side up, but even that is lessening over time.

I am grateful to a very skilled orthopedist, Dr. Matthew Hansen,

and the entire staff at The Core Institute, and Mercy Gilbert Hospital.

When I first broke my elbows I posted about it here.

Ironically, that post gets more traffic than anything else I've ever written. Just in case you were curious about how much traffic it gets, go into Google and type, "X-Rays of my left elbow." I have been the number one hit in google for that going back to April 2008.

I'm not sure why everyone is so interested in my left elbow, because no on ever posts a comment to that thread..., but for some reason it seems to be very popular. I'm not scheduled to get any more x-rays of my elbow for another six months. At that time they won't be checking to see if the arm has healed, but rather to make sure that the added hardware still looks good.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

For the love of power - Ether 9: 1-7

1 AND now I, Moroni, proceed with my record. Therefore, behold, it came to pass that because of the secret combinations of Akish and his friends, behold, they did overthrow the kingdom of Omer.
2 Nevertheless, the Lord was merciful unto Omer, and also to his sons and to his daughters who did not seek his destruction.
3 And the Lord warned Omer in a dream that he should depart out of the land; wherefore Omer departed out of the land with his family, and traveled many days, and came over and passed by the hill of Shim, and came over by the place where the Nephites were destroyed, and from thence eastward, and came to a place which was called Ablom, by the seashore, and there he pitched his tent, and also his sons and his daughters, and all his household, save it were Jared and his family.
4 And it came to pass that Jared was anointed king over the people, by the hand of wickedness; and he gave unto Akish his daughter to wife.
5 And it came to pass that Akish sought the life of his father-in-law; and he applied unto those whom he had sworn by the oath of the ancients, and they obtained the head of his father-in-law, as he sat upon his throne, giving audience to his people.

(Book of Mormon | Ether 9:1 - 5)

The Lord warns Omer to leave the land. I find it interesting that the Lord warns Omer to leave the land rather than to defend himself against his son Jared. From the preceding and succeeding verses I suspect that might have more to do with the wickedness of the people than anything to do with Omer.

Jared, Omer’s son, is anointed king over the people. He had promised Akish his daughter’s hand in marriage if he got rid of Omer so that Jared could become king. This was done at the behest of his daughter, who was clearly manipulative and also greedy for power.

I find it surprising that Jared was na├»ve enough to believe that his daughter wouldn’t do exactly to him, what she had already proposed to do to her grandfather, i.e. kill the person higher than you on the social food chain so you can have their position.

Anyway, Jared’s son-in-law kills him while he is sitting on his throne.

6 For so great had been the spreading of this wicked and secret society that it had corrupted the hearts of all the people; therefore Jared was murdered upon his throne, and Akish reigned in his stead.
7 And it came to pass that Akish began to be jealous of his son, therefore he shut him up in prison, and kept him upon little or no food until he had suffered death.

(Book of Mormon | Ether 9:6 - 7)

Akish assumed the kingdom through deceit and murder. It is not surprising that he would suspect that his own children might do to him, what he and his wife did to his father-in-law. After all, that is the example that he set for them. Accordingly, since he knew that children were capable of murdering their parents to gain power, he had his own locked up in prison and given little or no food until he died.

So what did Akish accomplish exactly? He is now the king, but he has good reason not to trust anyone. So he lives his life exercising authority over the people but having to sleep with one eye open for fear of who is trying to take him out. It doesn’t seem like much of a life to me.

What do you think? What price are you willing to pay for to acquire wealth, power prestige? Not that I’m saying that there is anything wrong with any of these things individually. I’m trying to get ahead in life just like anyone else. What boundaries do you set for yourself, so that as you strive to get ahead in life, you still maintain your ethics and honor before the Lord?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Brother against brother - Ether 7:6-9

6 Now the land of Moron, where the king dwelt, was near the land which is called Desolation by the Nephites.
7 And it came to pass that Kib dwelt in captivity, and his people under Corihor his son, until he became exceedingly old; nevertheless Kib begat Shule in his old age, while he was yet in captivity.
8 And it came to pass that Shule was angry with his brother; and Shule waxed strong, and became mighty as to the strength of a man; and he was also mighty in judgment.
9 Wherefore, he came to the hill Ephraim, and he did molten out of the hill, and made swords out of steel for those whom he had drawn away with him; and after he had armed them with swords he returned to the city Nehor and gave battle unto his brother Corihor, by which means he obtained the kingdom and restored it unto his father Kib.

(Book of Mormon | Ether 7:6 - 9)

Kib does battle with his brother and restores the kingdom to his father. The brother of Jared warned that the anointing of kings would lead the people into captivity. He was proven prophetic. Just a few generation have passed and already the people have forgotten the Lord that delivered them safely to the promised land.
Of interest in this passage is the mention of “steel” in verse 9. Many distracters to the Book of Mormon cite references like this to say the Book of Mormon must be false because steel didn’t exist at that time.

Jeff Lindsay has put together a LDS FAQs page that addresses this issue.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Missionary e-mail 9-5-08

It was a great week. We had a baptism this last saturday and it went well. I have never seen so many people in one baptism. It was totally loaded full of people. We are planning a baptism next week and the week after, and the week after. They are all doing really well including a man named Domingos who really wants to be baptized. He is keeping all the commandments and got an answer this week. He now knows the church is true and told us he wants to be baptized. I wish it were that easy with another invesitigator of ours who is really struggling to be get an answer from God. He has been going to church for some time now. He loves it but feels he hasn't gotten an answer yet. We aren't quite sure what to do... I've never had an investigator that struggled so much to get an answer.

A decision was made this week on who would take my place here in the staff. He is supposed to come in next week for me to train him how to do my job... or so I thought... Last night, president hoggan told the assistants that he wanted to keep me another transfer. I don't know how I could handle yet another 2 months here...staying 9 months in the same area is hard... I guess if that's what the Lord wants, then that's what will happen. I'll get an answer next week of what will happen to me. If I leave, I'll probably be a zone leader here close by but who knows. It would be great to get out in the field and work like a real missionary for a litle while before I head home. We'll see what happens. Well, I love you all tons, I hope you have a great week!

Love,
Elder Childs

Christmas in September?

Check back on September 20th, to learn about the Santa Letters. You won't want to miss it.