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It was a cold, fall morning as we pulled up to church and were just a bit late (Mormon Standard Time).  As I was unbuckling my seatbelt, I looked up and noticed someone out under the pavilion.  He was wearing shabby clothing and it looked like he was cooking on the barbeque grill. 

My thoughts were:  “I wonder if he’s o.k., or if he needs some type of assistance.”  followed by “We’re late for church and he’s shabby and dirty and what if he turns out to be a psycho like that Elisabeth Smart guy…” followed by “Dude, you’re on your way to church and you will learn about helping those in need.  What hypocrite would you be to walk past this guy and then go study about Jesus.  Didn’t Jesus say to help those in need and love your neighbor?” 

The words of King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon also came to mind.  In Mosiah Chapter 4 he says:

16 And also, ye yourselves will asuccor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the bbeggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.

  17 Perhaps thou shalt asay: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
  18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
  19 For behold, are we not all abeggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
  20 And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a aremission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his bSpirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with cjoy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.
  21 And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to aimpart of the substance that ye have one to another.
  22 And if ye ajudge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your bcondemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life cbelongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.
  23 I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are arich as pertaining to the things of this world.

I decided to follow the last inside voice and told my wife I’d be right back and walked towards the gentleman.

As I walked over to the gentleman, I noticed he had a bicycle and a trailer with all of his belongings in them.  I greeted him and asked him his name.  He told me his name was Bill and we started talking.  I watched him roll his cigarrete as he told me he was homeless and had chosen to be so.  He explained of how he had been baptized in 1972 in California, and made it up to the Seattle area, where we live. 

As he described his circumstances I tried to imagine what it must be like to live in the cold, especially during the rainy winters in Seattle.  My heart went out to him, and he further explained how he wanted to get a Bible and Book of Mormon and that he wasn’t there to mooch off of anyone, but wanted spiritual nourishment.  He had chosen to be homeless rather than live in the shelters where drugs and other bad influences were, and he wanted to come to church to feel closer to God and cleanse his inner soul.  He even showed me his church clothes he had specially packed in his trailer.  I told him he would be welcome in church and that I’d connect him with our bishop and also with a set of scriptures. 

He came to church and participated in both sacrament meeting and the Gospel Principles class and even shared some of his experiences with faith.  He was able to get some scriptures and waved and thanked me when church was over.

As we drove home, I felt glad to have helped him and prayed for his safety and spiritual strength.  However, my thoughts also turned to the Elizabeth Smart case once again and how the person who had abducted her was a homeless guy that her father had brought home to help.

The questions came to mind “How can we help our neighbors and still be wary of the safety of our families and those around us?”  “How can we avoid being manipulated?” “Should we just follow our hearts and help those in need without thinking of possible consequences?”

Jesus gives us the answers to some of these questions in Matthew chapter 25.  He says about those who help the needy:

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his aright hand, Come, ye bblessed of my Father, cinherit the dkingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

  35 For I was an ahungred, and ye bgave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a cstranger, and ye took me in:
  36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye avisited me: I was in bprison, and ye came unto me.
He then goes on to say this about those who do not help those in need:
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the aleft hand, bDepart from me, ye ccursed, into everlasting dfire, eprepared for the devil and his angels:
  42 For I was an ahungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
  43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

Personally, I feel it is very important to help those in need and give them support as Jesus and King Benjamin admonish us to.  However, we do need to be wary if we’re not sure we can trust the individual of how much information we give them and allow them to come into our lives.  “Taking someone in” as Jesus suggests doesn’t mean (in my opinion) bringing them into your home and giving them full access to everything.  It means finding a place to give them shelter, giving them a good meal, helping them find a job, etc.  I am very happy to help people and love them, but love and trust are not the same thing.

My reasons for doing this could be viewed as fear-based and I realize that fear is the opposite of faith.  I could see how someone would say that if we don’t bring someone in and treat them like a brother, that is lacking in faith.  My opinion is that helping people while still being cautious until they’ve proved trustworthy is being wise…not fearful. 

How do you feel about this and what do you do to help those in need?

 

Am I getting old or are music performances and songs getting totally out of control? 

I just watched the American Music Awards today with some of my family and was shocked.  Janet Jackson kicked it off with some good up-beat songs and the performance was good (with the exception of one crotch-grab), Daughtry gave a good, solid, clean rock performance and it went down-hill from there.  We had to turn it off when Shakira came on and there were a spattering of good songs and performances throughout the show, but it was too much for me once Adam Lambert came on the stage at the end.   

I’ll spare the readers the agony of watching the video, but below is a quote from taken from an article online that sums up the performance:

Before his performance, Lambert said that he wanted to break down a double standard that existed where female performers are often sexually provocative while men don’t do it that often.

There were also hostile comments online about the “American Idol” glam rocker who sang his new song “For Your Entertainment” on Sunday’s show with an elaborate, S&M-themed production. Lambert fondled a dancer, led another around on a leash, had a dancer briefly stick his head in Lambert’s crotch and kissed a man.

I guess if we had watched these performances back home in Seattle we would have been spared the agony of watching this garbage since they edited the west-coast performance due to the complaints of the performance.  This re-affirms why we don’t get cable in our home.  We are spared of watching this junk that way.

In the last LDS General Conference, the President of the Church of Jesus Christ, Thomas S. Monson, gave an address entitled “What Have I Done For Someone Today?”  Much of his talk came from an article written by Dr. Jack McConnell about how he came out of retirement to help those in need of healthcare but couldn’t afford it.  Dr McConnell went on to establish the organization, Volunteers in Medicine, that now has centers all over the country with volunteer medical staff to help those in need.

As I read about and watched Dr McConnell’s vision and how the VIM came about, I was very inspired by Dr McConnell’s generosity and thought I’d share a quote from the Jacksonville VIM clinic’s website about how the VIM came about.

The storm of the night had not quite finished. It was continuing to pelt the Low Country with a soft but constant rain, reminding us who was in charge of the weather. It turned the dirt roads and the paths into mud. As I drove out the back gate from the development where Mary Ellen and I had built our retirement home, I noticed a native Islander striding down the path alongside the road.I was not surprised to see he had no umbrella, for that would have been uncommon and unmanly. He did not have a raincoat either. But he did have a mission. He was a man going somewhere with a purpose. 
I slowed down as I approached him and asked if he would like a ride. He peered in and hesitated for a moment or two and then looked at the sky as if he were reading the weather. Apparently having come to an unsatisfactory evaluation of the climate and a satisfactory evaluation of me, he said, “yes, I would”, and got in. After he settled in and we were underway, I suggested he fasten his seat belt. But then we rode along without speaking for a mile or so. I wondered who would break the silence.”Where are you going?” I asked finally, unable to keep the silence any longer. “To look for a job”, he replied, staring straight ahead. “Any particular place I can drop you off?” “No”, he answered, apparently leaving the choice to me. “Do you live around here?” “Yes, I live just back down the road.” “What kind of job are you looking for?” “Any kind I can get,” he said, followed by a long pause. I somehow knew he wanted to say more and gave him a moment to gather his thoughts.

 “I have a wife and two children and we are expecting another and I just got laid off from a construction job.” I could not resist asking, “Does she have access to medical care?” “No.”, he replied. “Ain’t none of us does.” “Have you ever had access to medical care?” “Yeah, when I was in the army.” “Is that the only time?” “Yeah. We have to take care of ourselves. Ain’t no one else goin’ to help us.”  

About that time I turned down the main road of Hilton Head Island and headed south with no particular destination in mind. We soon passed a construction site and he wondered out loud if he might be able to get a job there. I suggested we wouldn’t know if we didn’t stop, so I pulled in the parking lot where the on-site trailer was located. Before entering, I asked my rider his name – James – and together we climbed the stairs to the Manager’s office. He told the Manager he needed work. The man eyed James for a while then said someone had failed to show up and if he could stay he could have some work for the next few days. They settled on a wage and he accepted the offer. 

 We shook hands and James turned to go but stopped in mid-turn. My new friend looked me in the eye for the first time and reached out and gave me a bone-crushing hug while he whispered into my ear, “I thank God for you, brother.” We held each other by the shoulders for a moment and as he started to pull away he said, “You have been a big help to me. Why did you do it?”  

The question stopped me in my tracks. I could not immediately reply. It was a simple but very powerful question. Possibly the power lay in the simplicity. I had no ready answer, so I said slowly, ” I don’t know.”

 In fact, I did know. Over time I realized the answer, in one respect, was that I could not do otherwise. My faith gives me an unconscious desire and need to understand and help others. But in truth I expect it was, at a deeper level, my desire and need to understand and help myself.  

Throughout the whole of my life I have learned and relearned that it is only in service to others that we find and begin to understand ourselves. Until everyone is healthy and whole, none of us can obtain health and wholeness. In medicine it is that pursuit of health and wholeness for everyone which drives more of our decisions than we understand or like to admit.

 Robert Frost tells us that every poem starts with a lump in the throat. I might add that it is also the way to start a clinic for the medically under-served. Or at least that is how the Volunteers In Medicine (“VIM”) Clinic on Hilton Head Island, SC, began – with a serendipitous meeting on a rainy day that transformed a rather routine retirement into one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of my life.  

- Dr. Jack B. McConnell, M.D.
VIM Clinic Founder

I hope this story was as inspiring to you as it was to me.  It’s amazing to see how God will work and use our talents if we listen and follow the promptings of His Spirit. 

I hope this Thanksgiving we can not only reflect on the blessings we have, but ponder what we can do to be a blessing to the lives of those around us.

This is somewhat older news that came out a month ago and somehow I missed it.  This is a video of school children chanting a “praise Obama” song mentioning that “black or white we’re all the same in his sight.”  Also there is a clip of the kids singing a “praise Obama” song with the Battle Hymn of the Republic music.  Here’s the clip:

If you would like to see the reaction of the parents of these children, view this clip:

As I listened to this, I couldn’t believe it.  Our country was founded on a belief in God and trusting in God.  Now we can’t pray in schools to the God who watches over all of us, yet we can change the lyrics to a song about God watching over us and replace them with a mere man who happens to hold the office of president. 

I hope this is just one isolated incident and that the national attention it received help keep something like this from continuing.

What are your thoughts?

While reading the Millenial Star blog, I noticed an article on the side that caught my attention that was about Joseph and Hyrum Smith and John Taylor taking off their garments before going to Carthage, where Joseph and Hyrum were killed.  The reasoning behind them doing it varies, but it is either because they didn’t want to be revealed as “Mormons” to their enemies, or it was too hot in Illinois to wear them and Joseph Smith is quoted as saying he chose not to wear his garments when it was too hot.  (http://en.fairmormon.org/Joseph_Smith/Martyrdom/Removed_garments)

This may be a big shock to some people of the LDS faith because when one goes through the temple they covenant to where the garments as a token of their faithfulness and devotion to the Savior.  Furthermore, LDS members are told that the way the garment is worn is an outward expression of an inner commitment to Jesus.

In the same article, there is an account written by B.H. Roberts, of an LDS Elder Robinson, who was actually saved because he removed his garments, which is quoted below:

But unfortunately if Elder Robinson should fall into the hands of enemies, it would be a betrayal of him as to his being a Mormon elder. He therefore retired to a densely wooded section of the country and, stripping off these garments, rolled them up and climbed a tree and tied them securely….But approaching the neighborhood of Kane Creek where the elders were reported to be killed, the railroad passes over a bit of trestle work over a very deep and quite large ravine, and near the middle of this trestle work he observed three men approaching from the other side, guns in hand. There was nothing left to do than to go right on. These men proved to be members of the mountain guard watching for me. On meeting Elder Robinson they questioned him as to where he came from and what his purpose was, and when he told them that he was looking for a job cotton picking they laughed saying, “A damn fine cotton picker you would be. Look at your hands.” And, of course, as Elder Robinson had not engaged in physical labor, his hands were white and soft, not at all characteristic of cotton pickers. He then told them of having been sick for sometime, and that accounted for his pallor in his face and hands and that he was just now beginning to get about and was now strong enough to begin cotton picking. Hence he was in search of that job. They invited him to sit down while they thought things over. No sooner did he do that when one of the three grabbed his shirt by the collar and tore it so as to expose his body, but they found no garments incriminating him as to his Mormonism and finally allowed him to pass.

These accounts raise some questions, which will be outlined below:

If the garments are to be a shield, protection and an outward expression of inner faith, why is it that Joseph Smith and the others removed their garments? 

Do you think their lives would have been saved had they worn them? 

In Elder Robinson’s case, did he show a lack of faith by removing his garments? 

For LDS members today, do you feel that you lack faith if you remove your garments?

Personally, it doesn’t matter to me if someone else chooses not to wear their garments.  For me, it is a personal thing between God and myself and no one elses matter.

Glenn Beck was poking at Al Gore the other day for being insincere because he eats meat.  When Al Gore was confronted about this, his response sounded very similar to the LDS’ “Word of Wisdom” revelation.  Along with not drinking alcoholic drinks, the revelation admonishes LDS memebers to eat meat sparingly and eat a lot of grains and vegetables.

Here is a link to a blog that contains a clip of what Al Gore said:

http://thinkprogress.org/2009/11/03/sawyer-beck-gore/

If Gore is being sincere and truly follows what he says he’ll do and eat meat sparingly, he’s on his way to becoming a Mormon!

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