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1 Peter 3:15 discusses the importance of always being ready to share our testimonies of the gospel of Christ.

That time came for me unexpectedly (which it usually does).

We are getting ready to paint our house and I have had painters over the past few days coming over to give us quotes on pricing.

The other day, the doorbell rang and there was a clean-cut young man standing there.  His image was much different than the last painter who came 1/2 hour late and who clearly was suffering from a hangover.  This young man was punctual and actually dressed nicely.  More importantly, he was friendly and very professional as he assessed the property, making small conversation and asking the right questions.  He was also very thorough in his process of putting a proposal together.

While he was putting together a few scenarios for me, we discussed his goals in life.  I learned that he was preparing to go to college.  We discussed this for awhile and it came up that I had gone to BYU.  At this point he seemed a little interested and asked me about my experience there.  I told him about what I had majored in and what I had learned.

He went on to tell me that he used to attend the Mormon church until he was 15 when his parents were divorced.  He decided to move up from Nevada to the Seattle area with his mom, where he didn’t feel he had the support he needed or friends at church, so he fell away.

Immediately I had a lot of questions in my mind such as: by falling away does he mean falling away from God or the Mormon Church?  How has his life been since falling away?  Is he considering coming back?

However, since we were in a business situation and I also had a meeting I needed to get to, I didn’t delve deeper into the conversation.

When he left, I felt the need to help him and wondered if I made the right decision in that moment, or if I should have dug a bit deeper.

What would you have done?

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 88,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

A couple years ago, I wrote a post titled Does God Want Us to Be Rich?  In that article, I concluded that as long as our hearts are first, placed on building the kingdom, then strengthening our own faith, and then the lives of others, that God does indeed want us to be rich.  I also share an experience where God blessed me with a lot of money at that time as a result in putting Him first.

The other day, someone left a comment on that post that they, as a Chrisitan have faith in God and a desire to earn $180,000 to bless the lives of other people.  They then asked the following question:

…can we ask for something specific (say $180,000)? Will God honor that request, or will He wait until we’re ready to receive it because He doesn’t want us to squander it?

I’m not God, so that is a heavy question since God knows the intentions of their hearts.  However, from my experience, God can answer specific prayers and the more specific the better.  It depends on a few things such as 1. If it is His will 2. If their hearts are ready to receive it 3. If they are willing to put in the work and effort to raise it.

Those are my thoughts, but I’m confident that many of you who read this can further help with this question.  What experiences or advice do you have?

I read a very interesting article on a teacher who is non-Mormon that taught a college course in Germany on Mormonism.

She discussed the attitudes of many of her students when she brought up the topic of Mormonism.  Having been a missionary in Germany nearly 20 years ago, I wasn’t surprised to hear some of her examples such as Mormons being cultish, blasphemis, Mormons are only interested in other people to convert them, and so on.  One stereotype I hadn’t heard, but can see why they said it was Mormons being overly concerned about money.  The kicker was when she said a missionary came in and told the class God brought the Berlin Wall down in 1989 because East Germany was willing to allow Mormon missionaries into the country.

As I removed myself from looking at that situation from a Mormon perspective and put myself into the situation of one of the students, I can completely see where the stereotypes come from.  Many of us as Mormons appear cultish in that we clump together and don’t associate with people of other faiths.  If we do associate with them, we try to proselyte to them and if they don’t accept, we dust our feet off and move on. 

Regarding the money stereotype, the scriptures always talk about obeying God and then being prosperous.  Perhaps we put too much emphasis on the being prosperous part and not obeying God part.

Finally, I feel there is also a sense of  Mormons feeling they may be a bit better than other people in other faiths since we’re in the “one true church” and all good things that happen in the world are a result of the good Mormons (as alluded to by the missionary in the example).

I hear Mormons scoff and complain sometimes at the fact that people have these stereotypes towards us, but maybe we are the ones who create those stereotypes.

“CAR!” my friend, Steve yelled, but it was too late.

We didn’t see the car in time.  I had just enough time to turn my front wheel and suddenly I was flying through the air and the “WHAM!” I hit the pavement and the back of my head whiplashed into the asphalt, cracking my helmet.

My first thought was: Wow!  Helmet’s actually do save lives.  Followed by I’ve gotta get an Advil and get back on the bike!

I wasn’t riding just for fun.  I was riding in memory of my Grandmother, who had passed away from Diabetes related complications.  Two months earlier I had written an article called “The Last Words I Heard my Grandmother Speak” and sent it out to a few hundred family and friends asking for donations towards Diabetes research for the American Diabetes Association.  Close to 60 of my friends and family had been kind enough to donate money towards the cause and I had committed to riding 100 miles.

Fortunately, for me the Good Lord was looking out for me.  Moments later a medic on a bicycle who happened to be riding along the trail at that very moment stopped and checked me (and my bike) out.  He concluded that I didn’t have a concussion, but that I should go back a few miles to the medic station.

I was a bit annoyed.  We were only 35 miles into it and had found some good friends along the ride from India.  We had a good thing going as we had been drafting off each other.  To turn around was so frustrating for me.  However, after some convincing from the medic, I realized he was right and that I should go get checked out.

It just so happened (like I said, the Good Lord was blessing me) that a lady across the street had seen the accident and she had a pick-up.  She came over and offered to drive me to the aid station.  She happened to be a retired physicians assistant, so she had some good pointers for me along the way.

The medic checked my vitals and everything was fine.  I had a slight headache, but he determined it was from the heat and had me drink a bottle of watter and Powerade.  A few minutes later, Steve and I were back on the trail.  We were at mile 35 and had 60 more miles to go.

The next 22 miles were the hardest for me on the whole ride.  I had rested for over 1/2 hour and my legs had stiffened.  I wasn’t sure if I could go on at some points.  However, with a few prayers and sheer determination, I was able to make it.

God was with us again as we pulled into the rest area.  The people manning that location had thought all the other century riders were gone and they were literally starting up their motorcycles to leave.  As we pulled up, they were very glad that they had seen us.  They took our information and called all the aid stations letting them know there were still some riders on the trail.  The stop on at the aid station had set us back about 45 minutes from the other riders.  If we hadn’t met this motorcycle gang (they called themselves the Lollypop Guild motorcycle gang read about them on Facebook here) at the rest area, we would not have had any more Tour support while we were riding the most brutal portion of the course starting at mile 62 in the foothills of the Cascades.  Praise God they were there!

A few miles later, we were winding our way through the foothills of the Cascade mountains.  This was the second time I seriously wondered if I could make it.  The elevation gain was about 3000 feet.  That combined with the heat, and perhaps my wreck caused me to get a bit light-headed and my nose started to bleed.  I barely stayed on my bike, wobbling up hill after hill.

At the next rest area, about 64 miles into the ride, I was able to get some Alieve.  This helped my aching muscles, my sore knee, and my slight headache.  After that, I felt like a new man and Steve and I kept pushing through the ride.

All was well until about mile 84 when we hit a monster hill.  The hill is a category 5 (on a scale of 1-5) and it was 3 miles long.  Somehow we muscled our ways up that bad boy and made it home.

When we got there, our lovely wives were there to greet us.

It felt so great to fight through adversity and with a lot of help from Providence and very good people I was able to finish the ride.  Not to get too philosophical, but it was like a mini example of our journeys in life.  We work hard and do all we can, but the Lord picks up the slack and usually helps us back on our feet through using other people.

I am grateful for a wonderful Grandmother who set such a good example for me in my life at a young age.  It was her memory that kept me going.  I am also grateful for all of the wonderful people who donated to support the cause.  Together, we were able to earn the “Champions” medal for the amount of funds we raised ($2,440 so far).

Here are some pictures of the ride for you to enjoy:

Here’s the very first video around 8:00 a.m. when we first started the ride:

This is the point where you commit to either riding the 70 or 100 mile route…

Three miles after we decided to ride the 100 mile route, I got in the wreck, cracked my helmet, and scraped up my hip and elbow.  I’m blessed that nothing more happened.  Here’s my helmet and scraped elbow:

Here’s the best video!  Riding into the finish line with our wives to greet us:

Here’s Steve and I after the ride

Our Indian friends we met along the way

The Lollipop Guild Motorcycle Gang

My jersey number (jersey number was yellow to signify over $2000 in donations…thank you everyone!)

Champion for Diabetes medal due to funds donated…thank you all once again (if I had made it back in time, Detlef Schrempf was the one who gave out the medal.  Becca, my wife got it instead and was able to meet Detlef).

Finally, my beautiful bride, Becca (she rode the 45 mile route) who initiated getting a team together for the Tour de Cure.  Without her, I wouldn’t have done this.

Recently, a Sunday School lesson in our Mormon Church was on a Book of Mormon prophet named Enos.  His account is very short in the Book of Mormon, but it is a very important chapter in the Book.

In short, he describes a long prayer and process he goes through to receive forgiveness from his sins through Jesus Christ.  His description could be described as what is commonly known in Christian circles as a “born again” experience because he prays and confesses Jesus as his Savior and asks Him to take away his sins.  He then is filled with the Holy Spirit and prays for his fellow friends and his enemies alike.

As I reflected on Enos’ experience, it reminded me of my own.

When I was in my early teenage years, I had been already living a pretty devious life and was full of hatred and anger.  Through the grace of God I picked up a Book of Mormon and read it within a few weeks.  At the end of the Book of Mormon, I had a very big desire to pray and know if the concepts in the Book were true.  The concepts in the book include the doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which includes: faith, repentance, baptism, committing our lives to the Lord, and receiving the Holy Spirit.

According to a modern Mormon prophet, Ezra Taft Benson, for every one person who has a “born again experience” such as Enos, there are thousands of people who do not have a huge manifestation of the Holy Spirit all at once.  Rather, it comes gradually as we keep the commandments of God.

I feel fortunate to have had an experience like that of Enos.  Immediately after I prayed, I felt a warmth come all over me and a love and desire to share the Good News with my fellow man.  From the age of 13 (when I had this experience) I had the desire to go on a mission and tell the world about the gospel.  My mission was everything I dreamed it would be.  Although I was in a country (Germany) whose people didn’t accept the gospel with open arms, I still grew to love the Lord and the German people.  If I hadn’t had this born again experience as a younger man, I’m not sure that I would have been able to be so motivated to go on a mission, and the experience is something I reflect on almost daily that sustains my faith now.

I would be curious to see how many people out there have had a “born again” experience.  If you have, please share.  If not, please share how you have experienced receiving the Spirit and a testimony of Jesus.

On Sundays we try and focus more on the Savior than we normally would during the week.  By this I don’t mean that we forget about God during the week and then do a turn-around on the Sabbath, but we try and make Sundays a little more focused on Jesus and His gospel.

One example is that we try not to watch movies or TV shows that aren’t centered around the Savior or the Gospel.

Our little girl, who is 3 1/2 years old, loves her Disney cartoons, but on Sunday we typically have her watch cartoons about Jesus.

Recently, we watched a cartoon about Jesus titled “Jesus the Son of God” that has the story of him as a young boy going to the temple and being left behind by his family.  It shows how his parents, Mary and Joseph searched all through the city and one of the last places they look was in the temple, where they find Jesus teaching the Jewish priests about fulfilling the Law of Moses.

As I watched the cartoon about Jesus, I thought about my own life and how many times I look for answers in many other places before going straight to a place (such as the scriptures, prayer, church, temple, etc) where I know I can find my answers from God.  Generally, when I do this, I receive answers in the form of peace and guidance.

I also thought of how many people are out there struggling to find peace and light in their lives and they search in all the wrong places.  It is my hope and prayer that I can be an instrument in God’s hand to help some people find Him.  It is also my hope and prayer that all of you can do the same.  I believe that as we do this together, many people will be blessed and find God.

P.S. for those of you with small children, or if you just like cartoons about Jesus, here’s a link to the video:

We’ve been having a very good discussion in a recent post with members of various Christian faiths surrounding the concept of revelation and what is considered scripture for both LDS and other Christian faiths.  Part of the discussion surrounded revelation given to both individuals and Church leaders.

This weekend, the LDS General Conference will take place on Saturday and Sunday.  Members of all faiths are welcome to listen to the instruction given by the leaders of the LDS or Mormon faith including the apostles and prophet of the church. 

For those not familiar with where to go to watch conference, I will share a few links.  Additionally, I will share an official history of Mormon General Conference taken from an article written by the LDS Newsroom about 6 months ago.

Resources for General Conference

The following websites are where I typically go to watch conference in order from my favorite to “least” favorite.

1. http://lds.org/general-conference/watch?lang=eng

2. www.ksl.com

3. www.byu.edu

If anyone knows of other resources, feel free to share them. 

Preparing for General Conference

Also, I came across a very good blog written entitled “12 Ways to Prepare for General Conference“.  I thought it was good, so I invite all to read it in preparation for conference.

History of LDS General Conference

This official article was very informative and included some facts I wasn’t aware of about the history of General Conference.

I hope this helps members of all faiths who may be interested in checking out Conference this weekend.

Somehow I’m just not as connected to the blogosphere as I thought.  I received an email with all this hype around a guy who had stood up in General Conference and taken a goofy picture.  It went viral and now became featured in a series of posters on the LDS Friends website with captions underneath them.  I thought some of them were funny.  Here are my favorite three:

Of these ones I posted and the ones listed on the ldsfriends.com website, I think I like the one about alcohol the best. 

Which one do you like…or is there a different caption you would choose altogether?

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?

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