Friday, February 25, 2005

LDS "Culture" Mentioned on News

As I was driving to work I listened (as I do each morning) to Paul Harvey. He's by far my favorite newscaster (86 years old and going strong, with 9 years left on his broadcast contract!). This morning he said something that caught my attention:

For the record, disabled Americans in Utah seek and receive less [spendable?] money than those in other states. V.A. representatives so say. Thus Washington DC has learned that there is a cultural and religious emphasis on self-reliance in Utah. Where veterans in Maine receive $270 million in pensions, in Utah, the same number of veterans receive about half that."
Nice to see that some people have taken notice. On many occasions Church leaders have been called upon to answer questions regarding the Church Welfare program for various government officials and agencies.

You can catch the archive of this broadcast on Paul Harvey's website. This blurb is mentioned at about 3:40 into the broadcast, so you can slide the bar over to that point, or else listen to the entire broadcast including an advertisement for "Ocular Nutrition" (such ads make me wonder if, age-wise, I'm in the demographic minority of his audience).

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Just a suggestion...

I'm not a big seafood eater. Once in a while it's okay, but I certainly don't go out of my way to get it.

Someone in my office, however, seems to love it. I'm the lucky guy with the office next to the kitchenette. That means that whenever someone heats up nasty smelling food, I'm treated to enjoy the lingering effects for some time (like the time a coworker burned popcorn in the microwave--walked away and left it in there for 5 minutes--at night when the HVAC had already shut off).

Right now, there is the most foul smelling fish TV dinner cooking in the microwave. I'm seriously considering calling a HAZMAT crew. My office door is closed (I never close my office door) and I've borrowed a neighbor's "Home Fragrance Spray" from Bath and Body Works. Usually there is an Ionic Breeze stationed right outside the kitchen (see above, re: burnt popcorn), but someone borrowed it to take home for a week. So I'm left to suffer.

My suggestion? Think twice before you bring something to eat at work. If you see/hear people gagging or closing office doors, there's a slight chance it's due to your lunch.

UPDATE: Just received an email from the receptionist: "What's the smelly stuff that's cooking?!"

UPDATE #2: The "Home Fragrance Spray" mixed with "Freezer-Fresh Shrimp" odors have caused our resident pregnant woman to hermetically seal her office door.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Consumer Reports, Amateur Edition

My indestructible little cell phone has done it again.

First, I dropped it one day getting out of my car, onto the concrete garage floor. The battery popped off, but otherwise it was fine.

Another time I dropped it getting out of my car in the driveway, and it fell into the lawn. A light rain storm and frost and 24 hours in the elements, it was fine.

Then one day, after finishing a home teaching appointment, I exited the apartment of the people I had just visited. I no longer wear a watch (a subject for another post) and rely on my phone's clock (always accurate, changes time zones automatically and self-adjusts to Daylight Saving Time). I pulled out my phone to look at the time, and the phone slipped out of my hand.

It fell onto the concrete steps, then slipped through the gap and fell one story onto the concrete steps below. Then, having not fully tested the very limits of physics, it slipped through the gap and fell one more story onto the concrete foundation.

Me: "(initial drop) Whoops... (impact) Owww! (impact) Ooooohh!"

Again, the battery popped off. I put it back on, and the phone fired right up. A couple of scratches, but nothing major. No cracks.

This weekend Anne inadvertently conducted the next series of the phone testing, we'll call it "hydro-resistance testing". The phone was in my jacket pocket, and Anne threw my jacket into the washing machine. She discovered it at the bottom of the washer, when she was emptying the load.

The battery had died earlier in the day, and I leave the charger in my office. So I brought it in today and put it on the charger. The display lit up. It charged. I turned it on, it worked. I called my receptionist, who could "hear me now."

The ultimate question is... Can it survive a two year old? (I'm not going to try that one, at least not intentionally!)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

"You remind me of my priest!"

For a while, I heard that regularly. In the town where I "grew up" (that's a relative term, ask my wife) there was a Catholic church. In fact, my family went to that church for many years, even after I jumped ship. About a year before my mission, my mom kept mentioning to me how the new priest reminded her of me ("Must be a handsome devil," I replied). She said he had my same manerisms, humor, speaking style, etc. and kinda looked like me, but mainly because of how he acted, not how he looked.

Then one time mom was in church, and her friend leaned over and said, "Doesn't he remind you of your son?"

I heard it from a few other people, too. The one that made me laugh, though, was the following story, as relayed to me by a girl that I had occasionally dated, we'll call her S. She was not Catholic, and was in fact Methodist (or was it Lutheran?). She took me to a church dance once, which was quite fun, and I pass the church on my way to Costco, so next time I'll have to look and see which denomination it is. Anyway, she wasn't Catholic or LDS, got it?

She had a friend who was Catholic, and was in the hospital for some reason or another. Probably an appendectomy. Stinking appendices, I speak from experience. She went to visit him in the hospital. While there, his priest stopped in. The priest is talking about this, joking about that, when S says, "You know, you remind me of a friend of mine."

Priest: "Really? He must be a good looking guy." (see? is that something I'd say or what?)

S: "Yes, he's extraordinarily good looking. (Okay, so I don't know for sure that she said those exact words, but I'll just fill that in based on assumption. Besides, it's my story. Resuming transcript:) In fact, he's Mormon."

Priest, no longer smiling: "Oh. Well, sorry to hear that."

S: "He's pretty happy about it." (Woo hoo, go S.!)

The priest changed the subject. He pulled out a crucifix, which he hung on the wall next to the patient's bed. He spoke to the patient and S about how the crucifix is a reminder of the pain and suffering of Jesus, and how when we look at it, we are reminded that we are not alone in our suffering. Then he looked at S:

Priest: "You don't have crucifixes in your church, do you?"

S: "Yeah, we do."

Priest: "I heard Mormons don't use crucifixes."**

S: "Oh, I'm not Mormon."

Priest: "You're not?!" (excitedly walks over to S, shakes her hand) "Congratulations!" (again, something I could see myself doing, given the right personality on the other end)
I found that exchange rather entertaining. On another occasion, I was on an evening walk with Anne through that part of town. As we passed the church, I mentioned that was the church I had attended for many years. Anne asked if we could go inside, so, we did. At this time, we weren't dating. She had been dating a couple of people who were now on missions, and I was, well, not dating anyone in particular. Basically, we'd hang out during the summer, and then go back to our respective universities.

We walked into the church, and just as we stepped into the church, I saw someone walking out through another set of doors. We went back out to see who it was, and it turned out to be Father Eddie (I can't remember his name), my supposed twin. He was very friendly (check) and also rather curious (check) about who we were, etc.

Father Eddie: "You guys go to church here?"

Us: "No, no. Just visiting."

Father Eddie: "Welcome! So, visiting from another town, or another church?"

Us: "Another church."

Father Eddie: "Nice to meet you. So... you two getting married?"

At this point, Anne jumps about 8 feet away from me, waving her hands around and laughing hysterically. "Oh, no!" she says. "Just friends."

Father Eddie: "Just wondering. Lots of couples come here looking at the church with plans on getting married here."
Father Eddie said we could go in, look around, but please close the door on our way out. He had just been saying his evening prayers, and was heading to bed. In all, a nice guy. He's since been transferred, and I don't know many people in that church anymore, so it's been years since I've been told of my priest twin.

** True, you will not see a cross on our church buildings or in our sanctuaries. The reason being that we believe in a Resurrected Savior, and believe that the living Christ should be the focus of our attention, and further that as we follow the scriptural admonition to "take up your cross" (3 Nephi 12:30) that our lives will become a living symbol of Jesus Christ and His Atonement. Church members are not, however, prohibited from wearing crosses; many choose not to on their own because of what I (tried to) explain above.

Friday, February 11, 2005

No offense intended!

I wrote, and you answered. And I listened.

Let me explain something, I'm not a professional writer. I'm sure this comes as a big shock, what with my rambling thoughts, incoherent post organization, and run-on sentences. All to often, I get an idea in my mind, I try to write it out, and when I later read it, I realize that while it makes sense to ME, it's not as clear as I would have liked to someone reading from a different perspective.

Hence, regarding my post "On those who cannot relate to non-members": I didn't intend to bash Utah or Utah Mormons at all. I didn't intend to bash at all (okay, so I mentioned a baseball bat--well, that was a bit over the top. A stun gun would have served nicely and is not nearly as messy I'm told).

I like Utah, I've been a Utah Mormon myself. Yes, your very own East Coaster was a contented Utah boy for several years (about 5 or 6 total). There are plenty of good people in Utah.

So, if I bashed anything, it was a certain "disdain" for the non-LDS world that I've seen in some people--both in Utah and out of Utah. This isn't something unique to Utah church members. There are people in my own ward and stake who exhibit the same contempt for anything non-church based.

What bothers me are people who fail to recognize that there is a world around them that has value, even if it's not "of the church, by the church and for the church." Sure, we have to be careful, and we have to pick and choose in what things we participate, but there are many great things out there. We have an understanding of the world and it's history that others do not necessarily share, and that gives us a unique perspective, to say the least. But that doesn't mean we have to demean what others believe.

As soon as I posted the aforementioned message, I felt that perhaps my language had been too harsh. I should have edited it, but frankly, didn't have time. That's a shortcoming on my part, and one reader claimed it was "an embarrasment to me." Perhaps it was, and if so, please accept my apologies.

It comes down to this. My family is dear to me, and my wife and I work very hard to make sure that they get a good example of what the Gospel is all about (and no, they don't know about this blog! lol). There have been so many good interactions between my family and members of the church, but all it takes are a few "too bad this was built for the wrong reason" type comments or someone talking about the temple in an inappropriate way in front of them, and guess what? One step forward, two steps backward. Or three.

So, honestly, I am sorry for having offended any of you. I really like Utah (well, other than the job market--that's just pathetic, and I have hard statistical facts to back that statement up!). It's just that there is life outside of Utah. The church is strong outside of Utah. And there are plenty of good people and good things outside of Utah as well. I also recognize that most Utahns are well balanced people who can relate to members and non-members alike. And there are a few who should be contained. Heck, there are a few members here I'd like to have contained.

Quite obviously, me sharing the comments by my "friend" in Rome is no better than her making the comments in the first place. I recognize that fact. But I felt this was a good place to share them and get input from others. I certainly can't talk about it with my family members! That's part of the joy of this blog, for me anyway. I can rant about something that my friends, neighbors and family can't quite understand. Here, I have a crew of people that have a similar background and can understand what I mean when I complain about being short on money, but still insist of giving 10% of my income to the church. Tell that to my family, and they'll tell me I'm nuts.

So, if I come across as arrogant or condescending, let me know. I'm not above getting a public flogging now and then. There are plenty of times when I am arrogant. And humility is obviously something that I could stand to develop. It's a process. In the mean time, this is me.

I've even doubted the title of this blog. I really dislike any sort of "division" or classification of church members. After all, why classify ourselves if we truly believe we're all equal? (my thinking: the blog title, I feel, gives an overview of where I'm writing from both literally and figuratively)

That's the beauty of the church. People may sound different, they may look different, but the church is the same, the gospel is the same, wherever you go in the world, and that's what counts. The church units in Virginia are no better than the church units in France, which are no better than the church units in Utah. Are some stronger than others? Absolutely. But the doctrine taught in all is the same, and hence, all have the same opportunities to learn the truth.

For instance, one comment I regularly hear always makes me pause: "I'd never have guessed you were a convert!"

While I understand what the person is saying, and I've even said this exact same thing to others, what, exactly, does that mean? Aren't we all converts, in some way shape or form? And what does it mean to convert? I understand it to mean we (A) gain a testimony of Jesus Christ and His Atonement, (B) gain a testimoney of His restored gospel (C) take upon us His name. The Book of Mormon states that "the Gentiles ... may repent and come unto me and be baptized in my name and know of the true points of my doctrine that they may be numbered among my people, O house of Israel."

Are we numbered among the people, but with a sub categorization attached? "Hello, number 10,302,201 (category C for Convert), welcome!" Not at all. Once we are numbered among the Savior's people, we are part of that body (4 Nephi 1:17 comes to mind). Thus, if one is truly converted, it should be impossible to tell a "lifer" from a convert because we all have the same testimony and love for the Gospel and desire to do that which is right--because we have taken upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, and are (hopefully) growing in knowledge of His truth and striving to put our lives in harmony with His.

I know I've rambled on enough, and I've certainly digressed from the point of this post. Needless to say, I'm an imperfect person using my imperfect language to convey thoughts and feelings via an imperfect media. To quote a blogger I frequently read, "Be gentle, kind readers." I'll try to do the same.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Highlights from the Past Week

(in no particular order)

Flying out of DC hours before it gets pummeled with snow and ice: Then calling your friend from warmer climes and asking him to shovel your driveway in you're absence. And please, don't pile the snow in one place, it hurts the grass, okay? Well, gotta run--literally, on the beach.

San Diego temple, one of my favorites: It was, as it usually is whenever I happen to visit, packed. I figured it was better to sit around in the temple than it would be to sit around an airport for several hours praying for at least a middle seat on a weather-delayed flight.

In and Out: Love those burgers, baby.

See's Candies: Never come home empty handed.

Sunshine: While it was cold towards the end of the trip, it was 20 degrees here in Washington. I'll settle for 62 with clouds, thank you.

Phone call from a friend in the ward: Telling me that our chapel was flooded and everyone was scrambling to find wet-vacs to clean the carpets. Oh, how sad that I missed that.

Phone call to the same friend: Describing the nice lunch I was enjoying 5 steps from the beach between meetings. He informed me that I am going to hell.

Anne's Arrival: She flew out for a couple of days after my meeting. The kids enjoyed a couple of days at my sister's house, which in their minds is the closest thing on this planet to heaven.

Realizing I had lost my license: The day before we flew home. Where had I dropped it? Who had found it? What on earth would they do with it?! The airline people I talked to on the phone weren't sympathetic; the jist I got was "find it or else call Amtrak."

Driving normally: So as to not get pulled over while driving sans-license.

Finding my license: In a weird, semi-hidden compartment in the rental car. Who designed that thing, anyway? And how did my license jump in there from my wallet?

Returning home: And finding our kids tired, sticky and happy. Tired, sticky and happy is good when you're 3, apparently.