Shoulder Your Pack, and Pick Up the Pace

There is a lot of hatred and evil in this world. I’ve been feeling weighed down lately with some of the news, and I do very poorly when I try to express it. How to best express thoughts, feelings, and emotions into words? What words describe the shock and horror of seeing a picture of the drowned Syrian Toddler, Aylan Kurdi? How can I frame a paragraph to convey what I feel about our own Holocaust-like abortions? What words will repel those seeking to limit and diminish our rights to live and express our religion, a right that the nation was founded on? What can I say that adequately expresses the dangers of pornography, and shows the link between it and sex-trafficking?

So. much. evil.

Just plain evil.

And on top of that, there is confusion, mis-direction, false accusation, exaggeration, useless rhetoric, and lots and lots and lots and lots of people shouting at and demonizing others. It really doesn’t help, particularly in a time where so many people need help. They need real help.

I want to help. I want to do something. To make a difference, even if it’s only a small one. I was touched by one mother’s small action to help against abortion. Something like that. And I want to encourage others to do the same.

The trouble is that it is something on top of all the regular stuff that I (and everyone else) absolutely have to get done: job, family, scripture study, family home evening, church duties, scout duties, family history, diapers, bottles, homework, reading, disciplining, cleaning, teaching, and so many other things that I’m forgetting. By the time I have a spare minute to think of what to do, I am worn out, and ready to just watch some mindless show with my wife and go to bed.

But there are those who don’t have a bed. Those who will never even feel a bed. They still need our help.

“Could ye not watch with me one hour?”

I am resolving to do a little more. To be a little more active. To think of things I can do besides “liking” and “sharing”.

There are so many good causes out there. There are people who are actively fighting these evils. We can and should help them and work together. Find some cause that speaks to you and lend them some of your effort, as small as it may be. Lift where you stand.

Our burdens may already be heavy, but I think the time has come to shoulder our packs and to pick up the pace. Certainly it is not expedient to run faster than you have strength, but we do still need to be diligent. Pray and see what your Father in Heaven would have you do. Understand that serving others will put into perspective and diminish your own burdens.

God is hastening His work, what am I going to do to keep up? Will I be able to forget myself and go to work?

There are chances for work all around just  now
Opportunities right in our way
Do not let them pass by
Saying sometime I’ll try
But go and do something today

Then wake up and do something more
than dream of your mansion above

There Is No End

The hymn “If You Could Hie To Kolob” is famous for having a great tune, lyrics that can confuse those visiting us on Sundays, and lots and lots and lots of lines that begin with “There is no end to …” (fill in the blank).

I’ve always really enjoyed this hymn a lot, but as a youth I thought those “no end to” lines were kind of… un-inspired, like the author just got bored of writing the poem, but still had to come up with two and a half more verses. I mean seriously, the fifth verse not only consists of “no end to” lines, but it repeats the same four lines twice!

Then a friend of mine died, and we sang this hymn at his funeral. As we sang those two and a half verses, I received a powerful witness of the reality of those lines. While we live in mortality right now, our spirits are eternal and continue past the grave. And because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, we are all partakers in the resurrection–we will all live again. We will see each other and be with them again. Families can be reunited. Covenants can bind us together for eternity.

There is no end.

Our love and friendships will continue. Our faith will continue. Our covenants with God will continue. Our families will continue. As important as it is, this mortal life that we now live is a tiny step in our eternal progression.

There is no end to glory;
There is no end to love;
There is no end to being;
There is no death above.

The Special

We recently watched the Lego Movie with our kids. (Spoiler alert for those who live under a rock and haven’t seen this movie yet…)

It’s a really fun show about construction worker who is thought to the prophesied “Special”, someone who would end up being “The most important, most talented, most interesting, and most extraordinary person in the universe.”

The end of the movie takes a turn when we discover that the lego characters are really stand-ins for a boy and his father. While the lego hero states that everyone at some point is the Special, we see how the dad is the boy’s Special.

And that is a profound truth to remember. To my young children, I am the Special (as is their mom). Regardless of who I am or what my job is or is not, or how many noteworthy things I’ve accomplished. In a child’s eyes no one is more talented or interesting or important than their mother and their father.

What am I doing with that responsibility? Do I do things that abuse that? It makes me think twice about what my response is when they ask to play with them, or read with them, or do anything with them. Right now in their life pretty much anything is better if it’s done with me and/or Mom. I think there are things I can and should do to be worthy of and maintain that trust and love even when they grow up and realize that I’m perhaps not the most talented or special person in the world, and that I do have oh-so-many faults of my own.

I’ve been told that it is at this age that they will develop their initial thoughts of what God is like, based on me.

Something to think about…


What is your focus?

We recently went to the Payson Temple open house. It was stunningly beautiful. In the last 20 years or so, the Church has had a lot of experience building these, and they are getting really good. There was a special spirit present, and for the most part the whole family had a wonderful experience…

The other part consisted of my son, who had a difficult time dealing with the plastic footsies that they slip on over your shoes. They are awkward, they make a funny sound, and they cover up your cool star wars shoes. Eventually he got over it and enjoyed the rest of the open house (mostly).

I feel like there’s some gospel application in there somewhere…


Legos, legos, LEGOS!

Legos were a major part of my childhood. My brothers and I got a fair number of lego sets, growing up, and I loved it. I loved playing legos. I loved building things with them. I would create castles and have the brave soldiers defend themselves against hordes of bad-guys. I would create spaceships and run through the house as my ship would zoom through space, dodging enemy fire and asteroids. I built a dragon that (I thought) was on a massive scale. I built a grey-and-black version of the Sea Duck, a plane from the Disney show Tale-Spin. I made a castle tower that was 33 inches high (yes, I measured it)!

I played legos with my siblings and with friends. We had epic battles, heroic quests, and death-defying stunts. It was awesome.

Awe. Some.

Except the part about loosing pieces. It’s a sad but important part of the lego life–a given set only has a certain lifetime before the missing pieces make it impossible to rebuild the original set. Being someone that really hangs on to things (much more so than any reasonable man should), I really struggled with that. My earliest set that I can remember was the “Black Falcon’s Fortress.” Oh, how I loved that set! Pretty much from the moment that the remains of that set went into the general bin of legos, I idolized the time when the castle was complete! Whenever I played with castle legos (and I got a lot of much cooler castle sets over the years), I would typically imagine that the lego guys I was playing with were secretly Black Falcon men, waiting for their opportunity to return to their former glory and rebuild their castle!

But even as a kid, I did have to say, the Black Monarchs castle in particular was pretty. darn. awesome.

So, when I got married and Mom was de-junking her house, I was more than delighted to take the bin of legos with me. My kids are getting into the age where they can really enjoy legos as well, and in the last year or so especially, we’ve had a lot of fun.

Recently, some of my brothers were talking about the good old days, and how awesome those lego sets were. I realized just how much of a treasure I had gotten by getting that lego bin–my brothers had enjoyed those legos as much as I had; and that got me thinking…

So I did a little digging, and what I found got me pretty excited. So I did some more digging and research, and that got me even more excited.

You can probably guess where this is going. It’s about to get pretty nerdtastic…

I found the site, which you can use to keep an inventory of sets that you own. Every set lego made (so far as I know) is listed on that site. I was able to pick out the sets that I remembered, and even guess a few based on the old lego pieces we had in the bin (Having organized the legos fully into screw containers at least twice–yes, just like the dad in the Lego Movie; stop laughing–I was relatively familiar with what odd lego pieces I had).

The other cool thing about brickset was that it also had the parts inventory for each set. So I could print out the parts list for any given set, and then separate those pieces out.

Now the other trick was getting the missing pieces, which there were bound to be a decent number (we’re talking decades of collecting, folks; back to some of the earliest sets). For that I quickly found what has become one of my most favorite sites ever–

It’s ugly.

It’s got tons of controls, knobs and doo-dads.

And it is universally regarded as the best place for buying used legos. Thousands of sellers are connected to that site, and the site’s dozens of gizmos and text fields and buttons give you some really cool ways to search, build wish lists, and match up what you’re looking for with the seller that most closely matches what you’re looking for. For used legos, it is Google, E-bay, and Amazon combined.

The last couple sites I ended up making good use of are for getting instructions to any set I wanted, and also, a lego Q&A site where I got some good info on gluing some pieces together (Apparently one of my kids jumped on a raised base plate somewhere along the line…).

Given that, I decided I would go on with my dastardly plan. I was  going to rebuild and re-gift some of my brothers’ sets back to them. And in doing so I could quite easily fulfill my childhood dream and rebuild some of my own sets as well!

Of course it started out relatively small, and grew to be much bigger than I had realized. But I had so. much. fun. putting all those old sets together. Of course it was extremely nostalgic, but there was almost a sense of awe as I built sets that were older than I was. OK, that sounded a little too cheesy, and perhaps just a little freaky. But it was really, really cool.

I was absolutely fascinated to see how as the sets progressed through the years there was a clear evolution of how sets are built–what elements go into a castle/spaceship and the ratio of “model” vs “toy” in each set.


The King’s Castle really is very impressive. It’s rather forbidding and austere.


The Black Falcon’s fortress was one of my earliest sets.


The shield and colors are still my favorite


But this guy is pretty darn cool, too.


The Black Monarch’s Castle was my personal favorite.


I really like how they did the corner towers



The Forestmen’s River Fortress was a really fun set. I loved how the dungeon was in the river…


And the Eldorado fortress had cannons that would really shoot legos! Not too mention the awesome cutlases.


The Fire-breathing fortress came with the first lego dragon, and the knight’s cape and helmet were sooo cool! Even the horse has some really cool head-gear.


I was surprised at how differently the Galaxy Explorer was built and designed.


But the cargo bay (with a ramp) was a pretty neat idea.


And I remember how much we loved the jetpacks!


My childhood spaceship was the Renegade


Like the Galaxy Explorer, it had a cargo hold and a small car to fit inside it.


The Dragster’s rear wheels have a differential


And we loved playing with the “Giant” lego guy that came with the Arctic Helicopter.


“Benny’s Sapceship, Spaceship, SPACESHIP” is probably the coolest space ship ever.


Three awesome spaceships.




Lots and lots of really cool legos. These sets won’t last long, but they will continue to be the best toy ever for a lot of years.


The Ballad of the Model Steam Engine

When my brother and I were teenagers, we had a train layout in our room. My brother got a beautiful old-timer 4-4-0 steam locomotive as a gift. To this day, the only other 4-4-0’s I’ve seen that are nicer are the really really expensive brass models (and I’ve looked). There may have been some jealousy, but I’m not admitting to anything.

The problem with these kinds of models is that the engine (locomotive) is too small to hold a motor. Instead, the motor is placed in the tender and a rod connects the engine in the tender with the worm-gear (and wheels) in the engine.

And of course, that rod became lost. But not before the company that made that engine went out of business (probably from making such nice models and selling them too cheaply). The engine was put away back in it’s box until a replacement rod could be found. Eventually all the trains were boxed back up until about 5 or 6 years ago when my Dad and I got working on another layout. Then we found that beautiful train, and remembered the missing rod.

One day four years ago, we were at a train show and one of the shops there had bins with spare parts for sale. In those parts we found two different connecting rods! We bought both of them, anticipating that one of them should fit my brother’s train.

However, before we had even left the show that day, we lost the bag with those parts in them. We spent at least an hour retracing our steps through the busy show, asking the seller if someone had found it, peeking under tables. It was simply nowhere. The engine would have to wait.

Just a few days ago my dad called me to tell me he had found the bag! I was shocked. Where was it? My dad had put it in a hidden pocket in his jacket, and then forgotten about it, including the fact that the jacket had a hidden pocket. The bag was found when Mom insisted he wash his jacket and clean out the pockets. That bag had sat in there for four years and dad used it everywhere, including working out in the yard.

I got the two rods out and tried them on the train. One had ends that were too large. The other had ends that were the right size, but the rod was too long. I thought this was going to be an extremely anti-climactic end, but Dad insisted that we could still make it work.

We took the long rod and cut it. Then we dug through Dad’s spare brass parts (he’s a kit-basher) and found some brass tubing that was almost exactly the right size. With some experimentation, we discovered what the right length should be, cut the rod to length, and used the brass tubing and some glue to assemble it together.

Old-timer 4-4-0

Old-timer 4-4-0

And this beautiful train runs again!

The Gospel is like…

A Symphony.

We attended a performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. We had the “cheap” seats, which meant we were in the front-right corner, smack behind the bases. As the symphony began, I wondered if we would hear any of the other instruments.

As it turned out, yes we did. The bases were a little louder than normal, sure, but it ended up being a small enough difference that it didn’t matter all that much. In addition, there were a number of places where the bases had a fairly interesting line that I hadn’t ever noticed. Also, at some points (especially the fourth movement), where they were playing a lot harder and faster than I would have thought they could play. I wondered how those performers managed it–it was really striking to see them working so furiously. It was an awesome performance, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

And of course there are some obvious parallels to the gospel and/or the church and a symphony orchestra. Similar parallels are much more commonly applied to sports teams. Here are some thoughts I had. Nothing really deep…

  • Follow the conductor. If the conductor thinks a certain part should be soft and you think it should be loud, you should still play it soft. “Going your own way” really doesn’t work in this setting. Neither does refusing to play (in protest).
  • Play your part. Not someone else’s. Don’t get worked up about whether your part is currently working furiously while someone else is resting (or visa verse). Everyone’s part is different, and important.
  • Your part is not the only part. You are not necessarily the only one playing your part. Be part of the orchestra. Like it or not, you are in this together, so you’ll have to figure out how to work with each other. The ability to blend is very important.
  • The best soloists know how to not drown out everyone else. Instead their voice enhances everyone else’s. In this particular performance, the soloists were in the back of the orchestra, and just in front of the choir, rather than all the way up front. I thought that worked out quite well.
  • A solo part is not as glamorous as it may seem. Earlier we heard Mahler’s 1st symphony, and a base player had a very important and difficult solo part. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone as nervous as he was! I certainly didn’t envy him.
  • Don’t get hung up on mistakes.

Watching the Priesthood Work

Last weekend we were working with the Deacons Quorum presidency to plan the upcoming year. We sat them down and helped them brainstorm some ideas for goals. After a while the boys seemed settled on three goals for the upcoming year.

I noticed the quorum president had been rather quiet. I asked him what he thought about the proposed goals. He thought for a second, agreed with two of them, but then suggested something else for the third goal–one of the ideas that had fallen away earlier.

While he was speaking I felt a witness that this 13 year old boy was called by God to lead this quorum, and that what he was saying was the direction the Lord wanted this quorum of deacons to take.

We asked the boys if they were willing to sustain the direction that had been set by their president. They all did so.

It was a really neat experience to see the priesthood in action.

Meet the Mormons Review

I saw Meet the Mormons over the weekend and I really enjoyed it. The idea of the movie is to showcase a few individuals who are faithful members, depicting what their daily life is like and how their choices are affected by living the gospel. So in that sense it is rather like an extended set of “I’m a Mormon” vignettes. Having said that, there are some pretty remarkable stories told here.

For myself, the introduction felt a little awkward to me–it wasn’t a really smooth transition into the vignettes. But that is alleviated by showing a number of humorous clips and comments about Mormons from various shows, including a brief clip of the famous South Park episode (“The correct answer was the Mormons”).

From the reviews I have read, many are critical because the movie doesn’t dig into the tenets of the faith–particularly the tenets that are controversial (such as the Church’s defense of traditional marriage). But the thing is, the supposedly deep, dark, controversial subjects that are such a big deal to critics and media (because those things make for a good story) simply are not what drives a faithful Mormon in their day-to-day life. But what I believe the show is really trying to put across is that the basic tenets of faith, love, service, fellowship, and family are the driving day-to-day forces in a Mormon who is honestly living their religion as best they can. And the vignettes show that in spades.

That is certainly been my own experience. From what the critics seem to imply, my daily life (as a faithful Mormon) must consist primarily of one of two things: either I spend my waking hours fretting about whatever the current controversy is, or those waking hours are spent vehemently arguing against said controversy. So of course the critics are mad that this is not portrayed in the film. And while the LDS faith certainly contains some who could be the embodiment of such caricatures, for the most part both of those ideas are simply false.

The reality is that, most of my life is spent working and familying, much like pretty much every other person. I go to church, I go to work. I come home and spend time with my family. However, because of the gospel, that working and familying is deeply affected each day by a commitment to family and gospel values that I would not otherwise have. This is what the movie portrays. And it does that quite well.

Don’t get me wrong–I do try to defend the Church that I believe strongly in. I am happy to spread gospel messages and promote and/or defend the Church through what small influence I have online. But that’s not the sole existence of my life. In fact, even in a recent talk from an apostle that was focused on increasing our use of social media and online tools to promote the gospel we were cautioned to “Not allow even good applications of social media to overrule the better and best uses of our time, energy, and resources.” The best way that I defend and promote the gospel is by living it day to day. So now we’re back to those basic ideas of love, service, family, and faith in Jesus Christ.

Especially for a first theater release from the Church, I am very impressed and would recommend this film to others. I hope they make and release more feature films.

Touch These Stones

I’ve taken a facebook “challenge” to state my favorite scripture verse as an excuse to write up a post I’ve been toying with for a while. Lately I have been rather fascinated by the story of the Brother of Jared building the barges.

In Ether 2 the Jaredites are commanded to build barges “after the manner which they had built.” So this is not so much like Nephi’s experience–apparently this group was familiar with barges, at least for short trips. But for crossing the ocean, the barges that were built had a couple major faults:

And behold, O Lord, in them there is no light; whither shall we steer? And also we shall perish, for in them we cannot breathe, save it is the air which is in them; therefore we shall perish.

No light, and no air.

Imagine being a Jaredite helping to build these barges to cross the ocean. You know that there are some big problems with the solution that is being presented. But you are asked to pitch in anyway.

Imagine being the Brother of Jared, asking the people that have followed you all this way, and being commanded to build these barges, but there are some obvious problems. You have to ask your brethren to help you build these barges, and at some point the major design flaws come to light. And you have no idea what to do.

Are we ever asked to pitch in towards something that seems absolutely useless, pointless, or futile?

So The Brother of Jared prays and asks for guidance. God gives him the solution to the air problem. He then tells His prophet to come up with a solution for the light problem.

“Here comes the Brother of Jared! Hey, what did the Lord say?”

“He told me how to get air in the barges.”

“Wonderful! What about the light?”

“He asked me to come up with a solution”

“…Oh. OK, what are you going to do?”


Now it could perhaps be that the Brother of Jared had formulated an idea fairly quickly, but I rather doubt it. I would guess that he wrestled with it for a while. I think it was a hard time for him, and he spent a lot of time thinking and working. I think God wanted him to have that time to think and to struggle, and to come up with a solution.

I also think he worked hard on the solution. The scriptures state that he did “molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass.” Perhaps not; but to me, that sounds like a lot of work.

I think he realized that he could not do it without help from the Lord. That in the end, his efforts alone simply would not be enough. But he needed to do the best he could.

In my own (much smaller) experiences, I’ve found that there is very often a difference between what I think is my best effort and what my best effort really can be (I’ve also learned that I can’t give everything my best effort all the time). Miracles come by the grace of God, but they are more likely to come after we have given much more than we thought we could initially.

So I think it quite likely that the Brother of Jared understood that it may be that God would not provide the miracle, but would give him further instruction and guidance (and that was OK).

But the miracle does come. And I love the implication behind this. God takes that effort, and makes it shine, providing light (and a constant reminder of God’s power and mercy) for everyone.

I love the lessons here, and there are a lot of them. God expects us to work and struggle to solve our problems. He will definitely help us, but the point is that we need to learn and grow. But most of all, that when we have worked and prayed and done everything we can do, and prayed some more, and worked some more, and it seems like all we have to show for our work is a lump of rock.

God touches it.