Fighting the Good Fight

As I sat with my children tonight and watched Peter charge toward the White Witch in the Chronicles of Narnia, I was once again reminded of the importance of fighting the good fight. The Sons of Adam were vastly outnumbered, yet they went bravely into battle knowing that they were fighting for the principles taught by Aslan–they were fighting the good fight. And then comes the wonderful finale when Aslan comes to the battle…back from the dead…and defeats the White Witch.

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There are so many parallels between this great story by C. S. Lewis and our own dear Savior, Jesus Christ. I always end up in tears when I watch this movie as I ponder the role of the Savior in my life.  How he offered Himself as a sacrifice in my place–and how he continues to fight my battles standing beside me.

What a wonderful Plan of Salvation that enables us to live knowing God loves us and wants good things for us.  All we have to do is accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and obey His commandments and he has promised us Eternal Life!

 

Keeping Secrets

I’ve spent my entire career working with computers. Twenty-five years ago that meant using a desktop computer to write personnel evaluations, project reports, and budget spreadsheets.  Our “computer network” at work was a bunch of isolated, self-built islands of connectivity based on incompatible technologies.  Today, I get complaints when the wifi at home drops offline (though to be honest, I submit my fair share of complaints about the wifi).

When my wife and I were married, we had a personal computer in the house.  I’m not sure what we used it for. At last count, we had 19 devices connected to our home wifi network (I’m still not sure what we use them all for). We’ve come a long way in 25 years!

Today I want to share three of the computer security challenges I see at work every day:

  • Vulnerabilities
  • Malicious content
  • Password management

Vulnerabilities

By now, I hope that everyone realizes their computer and other technology devices should be updated on a regular basis.  There are only two reasons why updates are published for your computer or phone: 1) there’s a feature enhancement (in other words, they’ve changed something to make it work better) 2) there’s a weakness, flaw, or vulnerability (in other words, someone can break into your device).

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Think of it like a house. By design, every house has certain features: windows, doors, a foundation, and walls. Sometimes though, a house will develop problems–a crack in the foundation for snakes to slither through, a hole in the soffit for bats to fly through, or even a simple hole in the window screen for bugs to fly through.  Sometimes, you’ll even have a garage door spring that breaks, a sink that springs a lead, or a lock on the door that no longer works. Without regular maintenance, these problems will increase and grow until the house is no longer comfortable or safe to live in. Some of these problems will allow burglars into your home.

Computer vulnerabilities work the same way. When your computer was built and released, it had the latest available software. Over time, bad guys find new ways to break into your computer, unless you apply the security updates for your computer. I prefer to set up an automated schedule for updating my computer.  This way it gets updated every month as soon as possible without the possibility of me forgetting (because that does happen every now and then).

Malicious Content

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source:computertutorflorida.com

Unfortunately, you can’t stay safe simply by keeping your systems up to date.  Let’s go back to the house analogy.  Even if you perform regular maintenance on your house, there’s still the very real possibility that a scammer will ring your doorbell. You may inadvertently invite someone bad into your home, thinking they are safe. I’m sure you’ve noticed that any service person with half a brain immediately offers you their company badge when you answer the door for them. Even at that, you’ve got to play it safe, be alert, and be careful who you invite in.

It works the same for your computer. As we surf the drivel of Facebook, we’re presented with so many tempting links.  How easy it is to click on a seemingly safe link and end up at a site that just downloaded software to your computer to monitor where you surf. There are some sites that are worse and will download viruses, ransomware, or other malicious content.

The same thought applies to your e-mail.  Hopefully everyone realizes there are no Princesses in Nigeria who need your help…you won’t be notified of a surprise inheritance through an e-mail…and certainly there are better places to find a bride than from a Russian website! The worst though, are the e-mails that look legitimate.  Things like “You’re package has been delayed, click here to confirm your address.” Or “Your account has been compromised, click here to reset your password.”  The bad guys are so good today that I only get account compromised e-mails from companies I actually do business with!

So how do you protect yourself? First, don’t click on links that look suspicious. In fact, don’t click on links that you aren’t expecting.  If you get something from your bank that asks you to confirm information, call your bank (using the number you already know, not the one in the email). Second, make sure you’ve got antivirus software running on your computer.

Password Management

Perhaps the biggest problem I see in the corporate world is password management.  It was relatively easy 25 years ago to remember the 1 or 2 passwords I had. Now, it is nearly impossible to remember all of the passwords I use each day. There are dozens of passwords for work-related sites. Then there are the passwords to get onto my home devices. And don’t forget that every website and app require a password.

It is tempting to use the same password everywhere so you can remember them.  Let’s go back to the house analogy.  Imagine that every lock you have uses the same key: your house, your cars, your padlock at the gym, your luggage, the Post Office Box, the key to your office, the key that opens your top right desk drawer at work, the fire safe at home where you keep your birth certificates, the storage shed down the road, the gate in your yard…you get the point.  At first glance this seems very convenient…until someone manages to steal the key to your desk drawer.  And now they have the key to everything you own.

So what do you do? No normal person can remember all of their passwords. You’ve got to use a password manager or other system to keep track of your passwords.  There are free solutions you can download to your phone that keeps track of your passwords.  Yes, there are dangers with using these as well, but it’s better than writing them on a sticky note and putting them under the keyboard!


Here’s the bottom line (did you catch the pun…see the line): being a responsible user of technology requires effort.  To go through life without paying attention to vulnerabilities, malicious content, or password management is like the ostrich who puts their head in the sand whenever they sense danger, effectively hiding their noggin, but leaving their big caboose flapping in the wind.

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source:www.guy-sports.com

 

What’s in Your Survival Kit?

This month at Scouts, we’re talking about Wilderness Survival.  Now, I’m not a prepper by any means, but I do believe it is important to know how to take care of yourself just in case you find yourself facing an emergency.  It is important to remember that there isn’t a single-fit survival kit.  My survival kit changes based on where I’m going and what I’m doing.  A day hike to the top of a 14er in Colorado requires a different survival kit than a week-long trip in the Smoky Mountains.  Both of these are much different than a car trip to see family. In general though, here’s what I try to keep in my survival kit

  • Flint and steel: everyone should know how to start a fire with flint and steel.  It is difficult at first, but with a little practice (and the right materials), you can get a fire started with one strike of the flint.
  • Water purifyer: a person can go 3 weeks without food, but only 3 days without water.  My absolute favorite water puryfier is a Sawyer Mini filter. It was amazing to drink cool mountain water right from the stream while watching everyone else drink iodine-flavored warm water 30 minutes later!
  • Shelter: by this I mean something that will protect you against the weather.  I try to carry a simple poncho and a bit of rope.
  • Communication: In the event you get lost or need to attract attention, you need some way to attract attention.  This might be a cell phone if you’re somewhere with service, ot it might be a whistle if you’re in a more remote environment.  It may even be a signal mirror.  In any case, make sure you know how to use whatever it is you have.
  • Scriptures: Sometimes getting your mind off of the immediate situation gives you a chance to refocus.  The Word of God is the perfect option for this.
  • Knife: You don’t need a huge machete, just a simple 4″ blade that is nice and sharp.
  • Multi-tool: I try to carry both a knife and a multi-tool because the blades on most multi-tools aren’t nearly as good as a real knife…but I really enjoy having the pliers, can openers, screwdrivers, etc.
  • First Aid Kit: This is highly dependent upon where you are and what you’re doing.  At a minimum, it’s a baggy with some bandaids, Tylenol, Motrin, and Benedryl. When certain family members join me, it’s bottled Oxygen, a stethoscope, and the pulse oximeter. For a hike, it usually includes an anti-chafing product.
  • Dry clothes: even on short day hikes, I like to pack a pair of dry socks.  The longer or more remote the trip, the more clothes go in my survival kit.My go-to material is Merino wool–nothing beats a nice pair of SmartWool socks or a light-weight Merino wool sweater.
  • Hat: It may have been proven that we don’t lose most of our body heat through our head, but I feel so much better if I can keep my noggin warm.
  • Personal protection: It’s always a good idea to have some way to protect yourself.  On hikes, this is often a walking stick (yes, I have thought about how I can beat an attacker with my walking stick).  Other times this is a knife, pepper spray, or a gun–it all depends on where I’m going and what I’m doing.
  • Food: Nothing lifts the spirits quite like being able to nibble on someting tasty when you’re tired.
  • Duct Tape: there’s a reason it’s called “500 mile an hour tape.”  Duct tape can prevent blisters, close cuts, fix fips…the uses are nearly endless!

Along with the need to have a physical survival kit, it is even more important to have a spiritual survival kit.  Most of these items aren’t things you can buy in the store.

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  • Faith: This is the first principle of the gospel for a good reason–in the battle against Satan, success begins with faith in God. Never underestimate the power of faith.  Moses parted the Red Sea by faith. By faith the walls of Jericho fell.
  • Testimony: Everyone has a testimony.  The difference is the strength of the testimony and the content of the testimony.  I believe our goal is to base our testimony on Jesus Christ and work every day to build that testimony stronger.Helaman taught his sons Nephi and Lehi “…that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Helaman 5:12).
  • Word of God: ok, this is something you can buy in the store…at the same time, you have to do more than possess the word of God.  You must read it, ponder, it, internalize it, and live it.
  • Charity: Also known as the Pure Love of Christ. Paul taught, “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2).
  • Ordinances: While it is vital to have faith, it is also important to receive the ordinances of salvation for those who are accountable before God for their actions.
  • Friends: Gordan B. Hinckley once taught that every new member of the church needs 3 things: 1) a friend 2) a responsibility 3) nurishing by the good word of God.  I truly believe that if we have any hope of surviving this world, it will be with a friend.  My first and best friend is my wife.
  • Prayer: Just as your physical surival kit includes a communication method, so should your spiritual survival kit.  Prayer is our lifeline to Heavenly Father.  He is there and he does hear our prayers. It is up to us to take that first step in establishing communication with God through prayer.

See also:

 

 

The 10 Commandments

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After Moses had delivered Israel from the oppressive rule of the Pharaoh, he was summoned to the isolation of Mount Sinai where the Lord gave him the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments. Over the next 40 or so years, Israel at times was obedient (and received blessings) and at other times was disobedient (and did not receive blessings).  Much of their “success” in the wilderness was dependent upon their obedience to the Laws of God.

I want my children to know that the Ten Commandments are just that…commandments.  They’re not suggestions, good ideas, or requests.  They are commandments.  Nothing in the history of the gospel has ever displaced these foundational laws of God.

I. Though shalt have no other Gods before me.

Nothing in our life comes before God. Not a job, a hobby, a vacation…nothing. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ teaches us to “…seek…first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

II. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.

Sometimes we fool ourselves by saying we have no graven images in our life when, in fact, we fail to see what is right before our eyes. So often we associate this commandment with the golden calf Israel forged during their wanderings. I believe the world is full of graven images today.  To me, a graven image is anything that distracts my attention and devotion of worship from Jesus Christ. When we care more about our cars, homes, and clothes than we care for the poor and needy…we may have a graven image.  When we skip church to attend a leisure activity…we may have a graven image.  When we devour books of all kinds, but fall asleep as soon as the Scriptures open…we may have a graven image.

Spencer W. Kimball once said:

“There are unfortunately millions today who prostrate themselves before images of gold and silver and wood and stone and clay. But the idolatry we are most concerned with here is the conscious worshipping of still other gods. Some are of metal and plush and chrome, of wood and stone and fabrics. They are not in the image of God or of man, but are developed to give man comfort and enjoyment, to satisfy his wants, ambitions, passions and desires. Some are in no physical form at all, but are intangible.”

quoted in “Refusing to Worship Today’s Graven Images

III. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

Of all the commandments, this is perhaps the most easily and frequently violated.  I once heard a Christian talk radio host comment about the phrase “oh my —.”  Someone had called him out for taking the name of the Lord in vain.  He went on a rant justifying his action by leaning on his Christianity.

Do not use the name of God in vain, or, to reverse the commandment, do use the name of God only when you intend to speak to Him or about Him. Gordon B. Hinckley shared several examples of this commandment in a talk titled “Take Not the Name of God in Vain.”

IV. Remember the Sabbath Day to Keep it Holy.

I’ve written a previous blog on the Sabbath Day.  This is the day of the Lord.  It is a day when we are to set aside our pleasures and our work and focus on Jesus Christ and His work.  It’s not a day to idle away doing nothing…it is a day to visit the widow and fatherless, administer to the sick, lift up the weak in spirit, and strengthen family bonds.

V. Honor thy father and mother.

The increased delinquency, disrespect, insubordination, and laziness in the world today has as part of its foundation a lack of respect and honor for parents. When children learn in the home that Mom and Dad aren’t the ultimate authority of right and wrong, they begin to believe that authority comes from within instead of from the common rule in society. In other words, by disrespecting Mom and Dad in their youth, children will be more likely to disrespect the authority of law later in life.

This is not the same thing as those who work within the legal framework of their city/state/country to incite change with a goal of creating a better world for all to live. I look in awe to those who have the courage to stand up against tyranny and oppression (even at the risk of property and life).

VI. Thou shalt not kill.

How can this be stated any more clearly? Of all the Ten Commandments, this is the one that is universally accepted by the natural man. If only we would accept the other nine with as much certainty.

VII. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

It’s interesting this comes right after “thou shalt not kill.” Once upon a time, it was as wrong to commit adultery as it was to kill.  Today, marital fidelity is laughed at, mocked, and openly scorned. Men not only look at women with lust in their eye, they openly talk about things that should happen only between a man and wife who are legally and lawfully married. Christ made it clear that you don’t have to commit a physical act to be guilty of adultery: “whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).

VIII. Thou shalt not steal.

This is another interesting commandment. Most people agree that stealing is wrong, but at the same time, so many people take the attitude that if they can get away with it, it’s ok. I find it curious that so often those who are protesting against oppression find it acceptable to loot and steal.

IX. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

So many of the other commandments are covered up by breaking this commandment.  So often we see a guilty party attempt to transfer the guilt of their crime to another by lying. We’ve all read the news reports of men cleared after serving years in prison once a false accusation came to light.

Tell the truth.

X. Thou shalt not covet.

If you want something in life, then work for it.  If you want a better car, then save the money. If you want to take a trip, then plan for it. Set goals and work to achieve those goals. It won’t always be easy, but it is possible. Ben Carson overcame the odds. Nelson Mandela overcame the odds. You can be wildly successful through hard work.


The Ten Commandments are still very much in full force. Have the courage to stand up for what’s right. Say what you mean and do what you say. Remember God always and let His light so shine before you (Matthew 5:16).

Obedience

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source: Pinterest

I feel like the last few posts have been influenced by the events of the world around me.  While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, today I feel prompted to return to one of the more fundamental principles of the gospel: obedience.

 

In a world of self-actualization, self-serving, fast food, fast cars, and “have it your way“, one might be tempted to ask why obedience matters at all.  Especially obedience to anyone or anything besides our own desires.  Christ taught his disciples “If ye love me, keep my commandments…He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:15, 21).  Now, this does presuppose that a person has a desire to love Christ and be loved by Him and God the Father.

One of the great stories about obedience from the scriptures is that of Daniel and his 3 friends (Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah).  When they were young men, they were taken from their homes and put in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar.  While there, the King fed them his best food meat and his best wine.  Daniel and his friends though, were desirous to be obedient to the word of the Lord.  He requested they be given pulse, which is generally accepted to be grains, seeds, and vegetables.

After ten days, these four young men were stood beside the Chaldeans.  Because of Daniel’s obedience to God’s health code, they were blessed with skin that was fatter and fairer than those who ate the kings meat and drank the kings wine.  (Daniel 1).

I’m not suggesting that we should follow the same diet, rather, this story teaches us that obedience to the commandments of God will bring blessings.  It also teaches us that it’s not always going to be easy to be obedient.  Daniel and his friends were young men in the Court of a foreign king and they had to stand up for their beliefs.  Sometimes it’s tough sticking up for your beliefs, but the Lord will bless you when you are obedient.

A key factor in being obedient is first being knowledgeable.  It is impossible for a person to obey commandments, laws, and rules that they do not know about.  Imagine driving down a road and getting pulled over by the police for speeding, yet there were no speed limit signs on the road.  So it is with the commandments of God.  We must first learn the commandments, then we can better obey them.  Stephen R. Covey shares a similar principle in his Fifth Habit of Highly Effective People, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” We must first learn the commandments through diligent study of the word of God.

We should be obedient with our whole being.  In Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians, he says, “Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” In other words, it’s not enough to simply obey with your words…to obey with a grudging heart.  In order to truly be obedient to God’s Word, you need to be all in. You need to be committed to obedience.  Then you will receive the blessing of the Lord.

Let me get specific.  What do I want my children to be obedient to?

  • The Rules of the House. The Fifth Commandment is: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” By learning to first obey the rules of the home, I believe children will have a better chance of becoming citizens that are able to obey the rules of the land.
  • The Laws of the Land.  The Twelfth Article of Faith states: “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” We have an obligation to be obedient to the laws and rules passed by our leaders.  At the same time, I believe we have an obligation to influence those laws and rules for the better.  We must be active participants to try and get honorable, wholesome, and meaningful laws passed.  If there are laws we disagree with, we should do everything we can to get them changed.
  • The Commandments of God. Jesus was asked by a young lawyer which of the commandments was the greatest.  “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:36–40). There are many commandments to obey, but the first and greatest is to love the Lord and to love our neighbor.  How can we love our neighbor when we are constantly speaking ill of them?  There is a disease afflicting society today…a disease called digitalis-anonymititus (yes, I just made that up).  It is the belief that it’s ok to say anything we want from behind our computer keyboard.  We mustn’t forget who our neighbor is:

A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.

But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,

And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

Luke 10:25-37

Obedience to the commandments brings blessings from the Lord.  These blessings bring increased happiness and a desire to obey the Lord.  It is a never-ending circle that leads to peace in this life and an eternity of joy with our Father in Heaven. Don’t give in to society’s teachings that we need only obey those laws and commandments that we want to.  Obey the Lord with exactness. Obey the laws of the land (and work to change them when they are wrong). Obey your parents and others who have stewardship over you.

obedience-cycle

…on family, man, and God

 I’ve been silent for months.  There’s a litany of reasons why, but in the end, they are all simply excuses.  Today, I feel a need to share my voice again with my children.  Perhaps they’ll find value in what I have to say, perhaps they won’t.  Either way, I will share what needs to be said.

Of all the things in this world, my family is the most important to me.  They mean everything to me.  All that I do, I do for them.  I go to work so they can enjoy the good things of life.  I do projects around the house so they have a pleasant home in which to live.  I go to church because it strengthens the bonds we share. It is this that I wish to write about today because the relationship between Christ and my family is undeniably intermixed.

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Salt Lake Temple, 9 Jun 1995

My family began with Christ as a key partner. It has continued throughout the last 20+ years with Christ as a key partner.  Are there relationships that last without having Christ included? Sure. But that’s not for me.

 

Part of the relationship with Christ that my wife and I share is our desire to attend church.  There we are able to receive the Ordinances of Salvation and be taught the Principles of the Gospel such as: faith, love, repentance, forgiveness, work, and hope. In turn, we’ve tried to teach these same principles to our children.  To do so on our own, however, would be a much more challenging act than if we associate ourselves with the Body of Christ.

This hasn’t always been a simple thing to do though. There was a time early in my married life when my wife and I were offended by someone at church. Someone who should have been a trusted confidant…a friend to help in time of need.  Instead, they did something that I found reprehensible and nearly unforgivable.  They caused my family significant emotional distress.  The actual act doesn’t matter anymore. Suffice it to say, we were deeply offended.  When it came time to go to church, we still went. We didn’t socialize with that person, but we also didn’t try to “make a scene.”  Over time, we moved and I’ve not spoken to them since.  I still remember their name, so perhaps someday when we meet again, I’ll remember who they are (then I’ll have another mental debate…).

It was not easy for me to heed the counsel the Savior gave on the Sermon on the Mount:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; …For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Matthew 5:43-44, 46-48

Here’s what’s on my mind…nothing can keep me from going to church.  No one can make me stop going to church.  Why? Because I want my children to be taught the ways of truth. Because I value my eternal salvation over my worldly feelings.  Because I treasure the relationship with my Heavenly Father more than I desire a relationship with man. Because I need the power of the Atonement more than I yearn for the power of the world.

I know I’m not alone in how important attending church and partaking the sacrament is.  I’d like to share an entry from my personal journal from the time I was stationed in Kandahar, Afghanistan and was serving in the leadership of our congregation.  We observed the Sabbath on Sunday, as usual, but we also offered a Sacrament meeting Wednesday evenings for those who worked shift or otherwise couldn’t attend church on Sunday.

I was rather tired today and I wasn’t feeling very well, so I left work at 1700 hrs to go take a nap. I got to work at 0545 hrs, so I didn’t feel bad about leaving early. I set the alarm for 1840 hrs so I could go to sacrament meeting. I had told Br Britton and President Allen that I wouldn’t be there tonight (because of a meeting at 1900), but my meeting at 1900 hrs was moved to tomorrow and I was free. I slept very well and woke up at 1840 hrs. I laid there a minute not wanting to get up or go to church, but I did.

I sat outside and waited for a few minutes before the other congregational leaders, President Cox and President Allen, showed up. Later there were five members that showed up. One of them was at Kandahar Air Field for only today. He is at Forward Operating Base Gecko and hasn’t had the sacrament in six months. He was touched by the service. We ended up singing a hymn, praying, and partaking the sacrament. Then I shared my thoughts on faith and President Allen shared his thoughts on hope. We closed with a hymn and prayer. It was a very nice sacrament meeting. I’m glad that I went even though I didn’t want to go. I later received an e-mail from this one brother. I wanted to include it here because he says things very clearly:

“I too feel that it was a blessing to be able to be there on a Wednesday. Sacrament meeting tonight was one of the most touching I have ever experienced. I was struck by the bonds of fellowship that extend between members of Christ’s church, especially when meeting together to worship. Thank you, and all the others there, for doing their part as members of the church. It was a memorable experience for me, and I felt the peace of the spirit like I have not felt while I have been here. The Lord has blessed us all to create such a fellowship for his saints, that we can be a part of it anywhere in the world.”

Personal Journal, 14 June 2009

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Kandahar Afghanistan

There is something special about attending church.  There is a strength that comes from worshiping Heavenly Father together.  Sure, there are people in the world who do bad things.  There are people in the world who are very offensive. Sometimes these same people walk the very halls we walk on the Sabbath day.  That doesn’t change the role of the Plan of Salvation in my life.  It certainly doesn’t change who God is or what He represents. I still need to take the Sacrament each week.  I still need to commune with the Divine each and every day.

I find myself thinking of the words of James “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).  Then I tell myself to breathe deep, think about what I’ve heard and what I want to say…then I try to speak well.

What I’m trying to say is I won’t allow someone to offend me to the point where I turn my back on God. Now, I don’t intend to insult anyone who has been offended, I simply extend to my children the idea that the most important thing in my life is my relationship with my family and with my God.  I refuse to let man influence my worship of Jesus Christ. I refuse to let man influence the relationship I have with my family.

Can’t we all just be friends?

I’ve spent the past month thinking.  Thinking about my life, my family, and the world around us.  I’ve watched the news as they “report” on the presidential candidates. I’ve listened to the accounts surrounding protests in the name of oppression. I’ve read the stories of people who demand change because of an offense.  As this has happened, I’ve grown increasingly unsettled.  I’ve sought (and found) comfort in the words of the prophets found in the scriptures.

As I’ve spent time pondering the Word of God, it became increasingly clear to me that, every day, we are moving further from God and closer to secularism. We are losing (or have already lost) Reverence for the Sacred.

Why are we turning our back on the Sacred? It is because the “love of many [has waxed] cold” (Matthew 24:12).  We, as a society, have forgotten what our society is founded upon. Since the beginning of civilized history, man has been organized into communities.  These  communities have included everything from hunter-gatherers to Empire-builders. The one common theme is a basis of law. Man has for millennia used some sort of religious beliefs as the basis of their foundational laws.


One of the earliest examples of a written law is Hammurabi’s Code written between 1792-1752 BC. In the prologue to the Code, Hammurabi describes himself as an “exalted prince, who feared God” and wrote that he wanted to “to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land, to destroy the wicked and the evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak” (US History). He may not have understood the concept of God the same way I do, but he clearly understood the concept of a Power Higher than himself.

He even included a carving of himself receiving the Code from Shamash, the Babylonian god of justice, another indication of his belief in a Power Higher than himself.  These laws didn’t spring forth from the breast of man, they were inspired by a Holy Being.

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Shamesh is seated while Hammurabi stands with his arm raised in reverence.  Photo from www.historians.org

Let’s jump forward to the founding of the United States.  I now quote from the Declaration of Independence:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Our Founding Fathers believed the the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitled them to break away from the rule of Great Britain and to establish a new nation. They even outlined three of the inalienable Rights: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

I like that the Founding Fathers didn’t specify a particular religious faith as they declared their Independence–there was no need, it was enough to acknowledge the Hand of God in the establishment of a free society.

Here then is the Foundation upon a Free Society must be built:

We must have an understanding and acceptance that there is a Power Greater than man.

We must understand that:

  • There is a time in the future when all men will answer for their actions, not to man upon the Earth, but to God in the Heavens.
  • We will have no peace in the land until we bring back the Love of God to the hearts of men.
  • We will have no justice in the land until we return to our laws a foundation of something Greater than ourselves.
  • We will have no mercy in the land until we “ask not what our country can do for us, but what we can do for our country” (John F. Kennedy).
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Standing on the Wall

Let us have the courage of Samuel the Lamanite who stood on the walls of Zarahemla and preached repentance and a return to God (Helaman 16). As we do this, we do not have to stoop to the level of our foes and resort to violence, suppression, lies, and hate. Rather, we must proclaim our beliefs through love, respect, and service. I want to share an excerpt from John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural address.  In this passage, he was referring to the struggle between Democracy and Communism, but if we look, there is a parallel we can draw to the struggles we see today in our own communities.

So let us begin anew — remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof.  Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.

Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.

Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms, and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.

Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.

Let both sides unite to heed, in all corners of the earth, the command of Isaiah — to “undo the heavy burdens, and [to] let the oppressed go free” (Isaiah 58:6).

And, if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor — not a new balance of power, but a new world of law — where the strong are just, and the weak secure, and the peace preserved.

All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days; nor in the life of this Administration; nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.

In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.

Now the trumpet summons us again — not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need — not as a call to battle, though embattled we are — but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation,” a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself (Romans 12:12).

Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger.  I do not shrink from this responsibility — I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the wold, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you.  With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.


What can we do…where is my wall on which to stand?

First, we need to obey the 10 Commandments. Regardless of your religious persuasion, these 10 laws are (or should be) universal in the structure of an ordered society.

Second, the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  We must not forget it’s corollary: if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. We no longer live under the Mosaic Law of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (Exodus 21:24).  Rather, we live in a world where we need to turn the other cheek. Like the song says, “kindness begins with me” (Children’s Songbook).  Someone has to take the first step.  Yes, I realize that means we are going to be taking a lot of steps that are answered with harsh words, violent actions, and vindictive men…but if we don’t start now, then who will?

Third, we need to listen to understand. Those around us who are complaining need to be heard.  Listening to the grievances of others doesn’t weaken us, it strengthens us. Remember that a man’s perception is his reality.  When someone believes they have been wronged, that wrong must be addressed. This is compassion and love.

Fourth, we need a day where we stop and Just Breathe. The Sabbath Day is a day given to man to rest from our labors.  It is a day when we go to church and ask for forgiveness, renew sacred covenants, and commune with the holy.  It is a day to visit the fatherless, the widow, the downtrodden–which is difficult to do from a football stadium or the shopping mall.  This process of resting one day out of seven will help us stay attuned to the Spirit and will help us stay close by God.

Fifth, we must “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, in all places” (Mosiah 18:9). Everyone has a voice.  Clearly there are those in our communities who have found their voices.  They are spewing forth their twisted, wicked, and vile words.  They are making it increasingly uncomfortable and difficult for the peaceable followers of Christ to share the Word.  But that cannot stop us.  In fact, the louder they get, the more dedicated we must be to witness of truth through our words and our deeds.

My point is that we must do something.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing”

Edmund Burke

Here for a Season…now Gone

While all of my posts pertain to things that I want my kids to know, this post is going to be more personal than many of my previous posts. This week, I need my children to know my thoughts and feelings regarding babies, eternal families, and miscarriages.

For several years, we’ve known as a family that there were children missing from our family.  As we gathered the kids to go somewhere, we’d look at each other and ask who was missing and then count heads.  Eventually we accepted that these feelings were promptings that children were missing, so we started the adoption process.

After nearly two frustrating years of little to no progress toward adoption, we decided to see if God wanted us to add to our family by pregnancy.  About six months later, we were so very excited when we found out that we were pregnant. Now Momma’s not old, but let’s just say that she’s not exactly in the average child-bearing age range.

Within a week of hearing the heartbeat of the new baby, we got a text out of the blue from someone in Salt Lake City.  It seems they had found our profile on Adoption.com (which had seen virtually no activity in over a year) and felt prompted that we were the right family for a child they knew needed a home.

I won’t go through that whole process now (mainly because it’s still not finished).  It felt like we finally found our answer…we were going to adopt a child and have a child, then our family would finally be complete.

Mom discovered at her regular 16-week checkup this week, that our baby stopped growing at 9 weeks.  One week after we heard the heartbeat, that little heart stopped beating.

I had so many questions swirling around in my head, the biggest of which was why God would bless us with a baby, only to have that baby die before it was ever born?

Like so many people today, I turned to the Internet to try to make sense of what was happening to my family.  Here’s what I learned during those searches:

  • The Prophets have spoken regarding still born children.  They are to be recorded on Family Group Records.  If the parents have been sealed in the Temple, then these children are considered as “Born in the Covenant” and require no further ordinances in order to go to the Celestial Kingdom.
  • The question of when life begins is not understood: some believe life begins at conception, some when the heart beats, some during the “quickening” and others believe it begins at birth. There are a whole host of other possibilities that I won’t dive into.
  • Miscarriages happen all the time…a lot more frequently than we even realize.  Most of them occur before the mother even realizes she’s pregnant and are thought of a late, heavy period.
  • It is difficult to communicate the emotions felt due to a miscarriage

Now for my opinion on the matter.  Let me start with the principle of eternal families.  Heavenly Father placed men and women on this Earth so they could become a couple which would “multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:28). This is the first commandment given to Adam and Eve and it has never been revoked. We are also told that we are to have joy (2 Nephi 2:25). As I’ve said in another post, families are meant to be eternal.  It would be a cruel and unjust God who let us fall in love and and create a family, only to be told it couldn’t be forever.

“For all old things shall pass away, and all things shall become new, even the heaven and the earth, and all the fulness thereof, both men and beasts, the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea; And not one hair, neither mote, shall be lost, for it is the workmanship of mine hand.” (D&C 29:24-25). Surely a baby in the womb is counted in the phrase “all things.”

“For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.  My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:14-16).

Not much has been said on the topic of miscarriages.  Perhaps this is part of the discussion of when life begins.  Suffice it to say, that I believe the doctrine taught regarding stillborn children can also apply to miscarriages. (Tears in Heaven)

I likewise find it difficult to believe that God would bless my wife with a baby…allowing us to get our hopes up of building our family, only to be told that it was a false alarm…a practice run…a mistake.  That doesn’t make sense with the God I understand my Heavenly Father to be.

I don’t have the answers, but I have hope and faith.  I have faith in a loving Father in Heaven who hears and answers my prayers.  I have hope in a future that includes this child so recently departed from this earthly sphere.

A good friend shared this thought with me:

I know He has provided a plan for us, a plan of eternal salvation that gives assurance of happy reunions and endless relationships.  I also share your hope that you will not only see your baby again, but you…will be able to hold him tenderly in your arms.

We do have a Father in Heaven who loves us very much. Through the Plan of Salvation, He has provided a Savior, Jesus Christ, to atone for all our sins, our pains, our sadness, and our grief. This doesn’t remove these feelings from us–we still have to travel this mortal life on our own–but it does allow us to lean on someone when we feel overwhelmed.  We can always know that Jesus Christ is there, ready to support us.  “The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art though greater than he?” (D&C 121:8).  When we feel that no one understands what we are feeling, we can take comfort in knowing that Jesus Christ knows exactly how we are feeling.

I’m grateful for a Father in Heaven who loves me and my little family.  I don’t understand why this challenge is ours to face, but I know that “all these things shall give [me] experience and shall be for [my] good” (D&C 121:7).

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The Cunningham Family

To Be a Man

I recently read a talk by President Russell M. Nelson that has caused me to think a lot about the kind of man I am and the kind of man I want to become.  You can read a million different articles about the qualities of “real men.”  Here are some thoughts I’ve had on the subject based on what I read by President Nelson (along with thoughts of my own).

Real man:

Developing Priesthood Power requires a man to pay the requisite price by diligently seeking to be taught by the Lord Himself. A man who has paid the price will be able to bring miracles to those he loves and keep his marriage and family safe, now and throughout eternity. In fact, President Nelson uses an interesting phrase…”In the coming day…” Here is the entire passage:

“In a coming day, only those men who have taken their priesthood seriously, by diligently seeking to be taught by the Lord Himself, will be able to bless, guide, protect, strengthen, and help others. Only a man who has paid the price for priesthood power will be able to bring miracles to those he loves and keep his marriage and family safe, now and throughout eternity.”

Of all the things I heard and read in General Conference, April 2016, this is the most prophetic sounding…there’s something about these words that stir a feeling of action within me.  

So what is the price to be paid? It is to live these qualities: faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, holiness, brotherly kindness, charity, diligence, humility.  It is also to pray from our hearts–even if that means having the courage to pray to know how to pray.  It is to earnestly study the scriptures and feast on the words of Christ.  It is to worship in the Temple regularly and ask Him to teach us about priesthood keys, authority, and power.

In the end, there is very little that’s new in this talk–we’ve heard all these things before.  But for me, today, there is something powerful about hearing an Apostle give me direction on how I can protect my family…on how I can be a better man.

The question is this:

have I spent my days working on my birthright…

or eating a mess of pottage?