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If you subscribe to the LDS Living magazine, you probably read the recent article on David Ciemny, who formerly managed Lady Gaga’s tour schedule.  He has quite the resume and experience in the music industry and has managed to keep his morals in spite of the surroundings he has been with from being in his own band all the way up to managing major tours.  When he reached the peak of success as Lady Gaga was bursting onto the scene, he could see his touring would keep him away from his family for more than a year.  He decided to quit at that time and stay with his family.

I thought the article was interesting, but it was the comments below the article from readers that got me thinking.  It appears that people were divided on supporting David with his career.  Some people applauded him for being able to keep his morals and be a “light on a hill” or “salt of the earth” so to speak.  Others criticized him for mingling with the “wrong” people.  After all (those who criticize say), how can a “good” LDS guy be really that good if he is touring with the likes of Lady Gaga or opening for Metallica?

In Sunday school I teach the 16-18 year olds and we are studying the New Testament this year.  Over and over Jesus is criticized for mingling with the “wrong” people such as sinners and gentiles who are not of the Jewish faith.  In my opinion, those who criticize this guy for being Lady Gaga’s tour manager fall into the category of the Pharisees who judged Jesus.  If David was able to keep his morals and be a good example, then he probably was planting a lot of seeds and who knows who he may have blessed? 

Now it’s your turn.  Cast your vote.  Do you praise or criticize David Ciemny for being Gaga’s tour manager?

In the LDS faith, people are not baptized until they are at the age of accountability, which according to LDS scripture is the age of 8.   According to that scripture, the parents are commanded to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to their children and baptize children when they turn 8 years old or there is a sin on the head of the parents.

When reading a post about Catholic and LDS baptisms, the writer mentions someone close to her who was baptized as a Mormon at the age of 8 and felt like he didn’t have a choice in the matter.  He says he went along with it because it was the social norm and the thing to do and you “go along with it”.  Therefore, the baptism is essentially meaningless for the individual.

For me, I remember my parents teaching me about being baptized and also learning about it in class at Sunday school while I was 7 years old.  While I didn’t understand everything about the commitment it was (and probably still don’t for that matter!) I do remember being excited and that baptism was a good thing.  I remember practicing with my Dad how to hold onto his arm and keep my hand up so water wouldn’t get into my nose.  I also especially remember my baptism because I had to go under 3 times before I was totally immersed (for Mormon’s the baptism isn’t valid unless you go completely under water).

I wonder though what would have happened if I didn’t want to get baptized.  Would my parents have made me get baptized?  I also wonder if there are examples out there of parents who have kids who reached the age of 8 and decided not to get baptized.

What would you do if your child didn’t want to get baptized (assuming you had taught them about baptism and what it means, etc.)?

Many times my fellow Christian friends who are not familiar with the LDS culture are a bit turned off by how the LDS church assigns people geographically to their congregation.  I usually see them looking for a church that they like and that fits in well with their interests.

While people are not forced to attend the congregation (the LDS call them wards) that is in their location, it is highly encouraged.

For those who have complained about being assigned to wards, the Japan earthquake shows an example of where being assigned to a ward can be very beneficial and inspired.  During the earthquake in Japan, the LDS church was able to take account of the members of all congregations within the country in a matter of hours, which impressed someone over at MSNBC.  Read more about it at this site: “In Japan Mormon network gathers the flock.”

I have written some poetry and songs in the past and it is very difficult to find a way to get things out there without knowing someone.  I think this company could be very beneficial for those of you who are like me.  You know you have some good stuff out there, but just can’t find a way to promote it.  The name of the company is Inspired Hearts and Hands and will be described in the owner’s words below:

Inspired Hearts and Hands  is an online marketplace for uplifting art, music, literature, etc. Each item for sale will be posted by the artist, musician, photographer, or writer who created it. There are no fees to sell on our site, no hassles, and we want to promote each of you who have artistic talents and allow you to do what you love. I know many of you have these talents, and I know that you know many others who do as well. Please take a moment to visit the site and learn more about how it works.I know from personal experience that it is hard to market one’s personal creations, no matter how talented they are. This site exists to solve this problem, to promote individuals and their careers to higher levels, and to provide customers products that not only support up and coming artists, but are also positive, uplifting, and affordable.  Please visit: www.inspiredheartsandhands.com for details.

The company accumulating items and will officially launch in June of this year.  If you have something you would like to share with others that is uplifting and inspiring, or if you would like to see a wide variety of inspiring products you normally wouldn’t find in the Christian or LDS bookstore, visit: www.inspiredheartsandhands.com.

As I was watching the recent devestation in Japan from the earthquake and Tsunami, I heard the reporters say this 8.9 earthquake was the 7th largest in history.  I was curious to see when and how large the other one’s were.  I did a bit of research and found the following chart:

The Ten Largest Earthquakes Since 1900

Below is a list of the largest earthquakes on record in the world. Magnitude, date, and location are also given.

Location Date Magnitude2
1. Chile May 22, 1960 9.5
2. Prince William Sound, Alaska March 28, 19643 9.2
3. Andreanof Islands, Aleutian Islands March 9, 1957 9.1
4. Kamchatka Nov. 4, 1952 9.0
5. Off western coast of Sumatra, Indonesia Dec. 26, 2004 9.0
6. Off the coast of Ecuador Jan. 31, 1906 8.8
7. Offshore Maule, Chile Feb. 27, 2010 8.8
8. Rat Islands, Aleutian Islands Feb. 4, 1965 8.7
9. Northern Sumatra, Indonesia March 28, 2005 8.7
10. India-China border Aug. 15, 1950 8.6

As you can see, Japan’s recent earthquake is in a highly populated area, where in one town 1/2 of the population is now missing.   Please join me in praying for these people as well as finding a way to donate to help them.  I will most likely be donating money to help through the LDS Philanthropies website.

Author’s note: I decided to donate through the Red Cross rather than the LDS Philanthropies.  I did this mainly so I could focus my funds towards the earthquake in Japan, rather than other areas of the world.  You can donate online at the American Red Cross website.

I was reading some of the Book of Mormon as well as the Bible to my boss on a recent business trip as I prepared to teach my Sunday school class this week.  He wasn’t raised in any particular religion, although he thinks he may have been baptized Catholic when he was a baby.  After a few verses from Helaman in the Book of Mormon he finally cut me off, frustrated, and said

“Why do scriptures have to be so hard to understand.  The reason no one wants to read or learn about religion is because things are written in such difficult language.  The whole time you were reading I was trying to figure out what the last sentence meant and got more and more confused as you read.  You would get more converts if you had a book written in modern-day language!”

His point was a valid one.  For those of us brought up in a relgion that uses the KJV Bible or the Book of Mormon, we have become used to the old English.  However, it is still hard to understand sometimes. 

There are many modern-day translations of the Bible to address the concerns of my friend, but I hadn’t heard of any modern-day Book of Mormon translations.  However, after a little research, I found one.  There is a free interactive site that has it, or you can purchase one new or used on Amazon.  It is called A Plain English version of the Book of Mormon and has some sample pages listed for readers to get a feel for how it is written.

I think it’s a great idea to have a modern-day version of scripture.  I’ve been frustrated many times trying to decipher what words mean. 

In closing, I’d like to pose the question:  Do you believe using a modern-day version of scripture would increase converts?  Why or why not?

In a recent article I read about Brandon Davies being dismissed from the team, the author stated that BYU’ honor code was even stricter than that of the LDS church and in his words described it as the LDS church on steriods.  He goes on to allude that BYU is ruthless and that if BYU wanted to help the basketball player, they would have kept him on the team and helped him with his issue. 

Other people such as the broadcasters on Sportscenter the other day applauded BYU for upholding their standards in a time when many schools would not have, given all that was on the line.

I feel that the first author could have had a valid point since part of the honor code at BYU is “trivial” things (in my opinion) such as if you have shaved that day, cheated on a test, had a cup of Joe, or was dressing inappropriately.  If Davies would have been removed from the team for a smaller violation such as one of these, I think that could have been justified, but it would have been much too harsh. In a situation such as that, they could have taken him in and helped him, assuming that he was willing to work on it and not do it.  Perhaps suspended him for a game or something of that nature.

However, now that the word is out that he was having sexual relations the consequences are much higher and he is therefore off the team.  I agree with the team for doing that because in the long run, it helps Davies if he will allow it to.

When one is baptized into the LDS church on of the covenants they make with God is that they will be sexually pure before marriage as well as faithful to their spouses after marriage.  The consequences for violating this are similar to what happened to Davies in that an individual would most likely be excommunicated from the church and would need to go through the repentance process of purifying their lives before the Lord and then being re-baptized. 

I am assuming that Davies could be reinstated onto the basketball team if he chooses to go through the repentance process and discontinue sexual relations outside of marriage.  If he does this, and BYU doesn’t let him back onto the team for that reason, I would agree with the first author that the Honor Code is going too far.  However, I must agree with the sportscenter folks for now and applaud BYU for upholding the honor code.  In the long run it will help Davies become a better man, if he allows it.

Recently, one of my church friends and I had a long discussion.  I had noticed tension in his relationship over the past couple years, but he hadn’t openly discussed it with me until the other day.  He told me he wasn’t sure if he knew what love for his wife was anymore and went on to discuss how they had entertained the idea of getting a divorce.

Divorce is something I do not take lightly.  My parents fought throughout their 10 years of marriage and I constantly worried as a young child if they would get a divorce as I would listen to them fight when they thought we were asleep.  My world was crushed when at the age of 9 my parents were divorced.  Over the 25 years since their divorce, I have seen personal heartache and struggle, struggle and conflict with my siblings, and my parents have been affected emotionally and physically as a result of it throughout the years as well.  I’m positive some within my family are not over it.

In addition to my own experiences with divorce, I have seen grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends and cousins go through divorce.  The heartache felt during a strained marriage and emptiness from the aftermath of a divorce are real.

With all of this in mind I said a silent prayer to myself as he confided in me.  I wanted to make sure I relayed to him what was helpful for him and what God wanted him to hear.  As I prayed and thought, I remembered reading a story in Spencer W Kimball’s book “The Miracle of Forgiveness“.  It is about a lady who, against her church leader’s advice went ahead and got a divorce simply because she had “fallen out” of love and she thought it would be easier do go it alone.  A few years later, she approached her leader and he asked her if life was better now that she was divorced.  She said that she regretted getting the divorce and wished she would have worked harder at loving her former husband.  I shared this story with my friend and urged him to try everything in his power to make the marriage work and love flicker again.  Not only for his sake, but for his wife and daughters’ sakes as well.

Spencer W Kimball gave another address back in 1979 entitled “Oneness in Marriage” that provides guidance on how to have a happy and successful marriage.  The following four points are very valuable tools for both my friend and anyone considering marriage or currently in a marriage, which will be discussed.  (The direct quote is in bold letters with additional commentary underneath the quote).

1. There must be the proper approach toward marriage, which contemplates the selection of a spouse who reaches as nearly as possible the pinnacle of perfection in all the matters which are of importance to the individuals. And then those two parties must come to the altar in the temple realizing that they must work hard toward this successful joint living. 

This is a very serious step that I think many people take too lightly.  The possible “pinnacle of perfection” is different from one person to the next.  In my opinion, one would be wise to write down the non-negotiables of what one wants in a spouse and then some that would be nice to have but not essential.  When dating evaluate this and especially when considering marriage, make sure the potential partner lines up with this.  If it is very important to you, and the partner isn’t appearing that they will compromise, it is easier to break off an engagement or someone you’re dating than it is to get into a marriage.

For those who are already married and may have taken the marriage a bit too lightly before entering marriage, it still isn’t too late.  Write down what is non-negotiable, etc. and share it with your spouse.  Come up with a plan of how you see marriage working out together and work towards it.  If you are having a hard time doing this, get some marriage counseling.  There is no harm in this and if both parties want to make it work, it can be good to have an outside, unbiased, professional perspective.

2. There must be a great unselfishness, forgetting self and directing all of the family life and all pertaining thereunto to the good of the family, subjugating self.

Selfishness is a marriage killer.  I’ve seen friends and family go through divorce because an individual (or both individuals) are not willing to compromise or admit their mistakes.  It is very hard to make a marriage work if both parties are not willing to admit their mistakes and then forgive and forget the mistakes of their partner.

3. There must be continued courting and expressions of affection, kindness, and consideration to keep love alive and growing.

There are many quotes on love, but one of my favorite most-recent quotes comes from Elder Uchtdorf.  He states “love is spelled T-I-M-E…time” and I agree completely.

When my father remarried, he set a very good example of regularly dating and spending time with my new mother.  Often it was as simple as going to the grocery store together, but they made sure that once a week they had alone time.

I’m not sure that they realized how much my younger brother and I watched them as they spent time with each other and their love grew. It made a very strong impact on me and how I wanted my relationship with my wife to be someday.  Kids can tell when love is alive and well between parents and it affects areas of their life such as school performance, relationships with friends, and self-confidence. 

4. There must be a complete living of the commandments of the Lord as defined in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As my friend talked about how discouraged he was and how negative he felt towards God and life in general, I wondered about his relationship with God.  I asked him a few questions and he did say he hadn’t been praying, studying God’s Word.  I knew he hadn’t been going to church regularly either. 

From personal experience, when we shut out God by not allowing him in through prayer or scripture study or other uplifting activities, it gets very hard to remain positive.  I highly recommended that he start doing these things again, even if he didn’t feel like it.

My prayer is that some things we talked about help him pick himself up and start trying again with his marriage and relationship with God.   I realize that in many circumstances damage is irreparable and divorce is inevitable.  However, if both parties are willing to pick up the pieces, forgive and forget, compromise, and begin again by setting goals together, happiness and love can once again return into the marriage. 

I realize that many of you have had experiences either personally or second-hand with divorce and would welcome your responses.  If this were your friend, what advice would you give?

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