In my fourth podcast episode, I talk with the missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are serving here in Port Angeles, Washington. We discuss the Grateful Wall which was on display downtown on 11/07/2020.
Click on the image below to access the podcast. There are also a few pictures below.
This is from an article I sent in to the Peninsula Daily News:
Imagine this. You are a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and there is a major pandemic which has altered the course of how you share the joy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. These young men and women go out at ages 18-19 years old. Normally they spend their time knocking on doors, sharing a message of joy and hope, and teaching in people’s homes. With all of the COVID restrictions, they’ve had to come up with a new way of doing things.
As Thanksgiving is fast approaching, one thing that they thought would be unifying for the residents of Port Angeles, was to have a way to show gratitude; a Grateful Wall!
They asked some of the Port Angeles Facebook groups if they could get donations for the supplies. Several people offered the needed supplies.
The idea is simple. They constructed a temporary grateful wall downtown just for today. Those passing by could write down on index cards what they were grateful for and add it to the wall.
In a time when we have to physically distance, some are struggling with depression, and there is a lot of political division, we can use more unifying and uplifting things like the gratitude wall. Thank you missionaries! Keep up the good work!
There is a painting in the entry of our home. Every now and then as I am passing by, I will stop and look at it. It is a painting of my two eldest children, Julienne and Maggie. The painting is of them running down a trail in Port Angeles, on one of our many vacations over the past 25 years, visiting my wife’s parents. The painting represents thousands of memories of them when they were young.
Julienne just turned 23 a couple days ago and Maggie is now 21 years old. I am no longer a young father with a small family of young children. Where has the time gone? How has it all happened so quickly? We now have 6 children, and our youngest, Xavier, is now 8 years old.
Tonight as I was walking downstairs to check on our two youngest, Camille and Xavier, who wanted to sleep in the family room downstairs, I stopped and looked at the painting. A scripture came to my mind from The Book of Mormon, in Jacob. Jacob 7:26, says that he (Jacob) had become old, and that “Our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream.” Boy does this scripture speak to me.
I turned 50 this year. My life thus far has passed away like a dream. I have 2 adult children. Our third oldest, Emma, will turn 18 this month and just voted for her first time. That makes half of our children adults. Gavin started high school this year and will turn 16 in 2021. This means that in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he will be ordained a priest and bless the sacrament on Sundays at church. My family is growing up. Every now and then it hits me. So much time has passed. I look back at it in unbelief; Part of me sad, part of me happy for who my children have become. The earthly journey we are all on is the same for everyone. Even Jacob in The Book of Mormon, around 421 B.C. sees his life as he looks back in disbelief. How could it all have happened so quickly? I’m with you Jacob!
I get super nostalgic. I become just like Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation, sitting in the attic almost tearing up as I see pictures of my little ones who are now grown up. I cherish the pictures, videos, and this painting that my mother-in-law, Ruth Sidwell, painted many years ago, because of the sweet memories they provoke. We moved to Port Angeles, Washington to help Jen’s mom Ruth and Jen’s father Richard, who have as Jacob said, “become old.” Ruth doesn’t paint anymore. Richard no longer golfs. Their memory is fuzzy. But they love to talk about their children. We hear the same stories over and over.
I think that it’s been a good experience for my children to be so close and involved in their maternal grandparents’ lives over the past two and a half years. I wish that we were closer to my mom, dad, brother, and my daughters Julienne and Maggie, who are all now the ones whom we do not see very often as they all live in Utah and COVID precautions have kept us from visiting.
I now have more empathy for my parents and Jen’s parents as I hear them talking about when they were raising their young families and the struggles that they had. Life is not easy. It’s interesting how aging provides that insight and empathy towards those who are older than you. Just like we are going through trials, they went through many trials. Now their trials are mostly due to health and old age.
Almost every morning, I sit in my truck before going to work, and pray vocally. It is there where I have privacy and quiet from the world, and how I begin my day. I thank my Heavenly Father for the blessing of my wife and children. I know that He knows in the depths of my heart, my tremendous love for them. If my life were to end tomorrow, I feel that I’ve had the richest blessings I could have ever imagined. I’m sure that if you asked my wife Jen, or my mom or Jen’s mom, they’d all say the same thing. I know that joy comes in many ways, and that not everybody gets the blessing of children or even marriage in this life. I’m confident that Heavenly Father will provide the same joy to all of His children, even if it doesn’t happen in this life.
I had a talk with one of my children recently about a disappointment in their life. I said that life sometimes doesn’t go the way we want it to or the way we planned that it would. I think most people would say that about their life at one point or another. But often, there are blessings that we cannot imagine which await us. Sometimes we have to go through the refiner’s fire. This video was shared today in our adult gospel doctrine class over zoom:
“It isn’t as bad as you sometimes think it is. It all works out. Don’t worry… If you do your best, it will all work out. Put your trust in God, and move forward with faith and confidence in the future. The Lord will not forsake us.” – President Gordon B. Hinckley
So if you see me just standing in the hall staring at a picture or this painting, you know what I’m thinking. It was all as a dream.
I feel that I can do better in recording spiritual experiences.
I’ve felt a bit of writer’s block since the pandemic started. I think that it might be because of the many things weighing on my mind; from the health of my mother who lives in Utah and who’s had some health challenges during the past few months, to the safety of my two college-age daughters who live in different parts of Utah, to my in-laws here in Port Angeles who have health challenges, to my family at home here, to my business which has taken a big hit through the shutdown, and to the uncertainty of everything going on in the world. I just haven’t felt the direction on what to write.
Spiritually, it has been a really fascinating time. Our regular worship services stopped back in March. We began doing our weekly worship service, or sacrament meeting, at home since the churches were all closed. It has become a really neat experience as we do this together as a family. I have felt spiritually strengthened during the past few months even though we physically could not go into the church and worship or go to the temple in Seattle, which members of my faith call the “House of the Lord.” The temple is a special place where we can feel the Spirit of God strongly, and I do miss going there.
Nephi was asked by the resurrected Lord, Jesus Christ, where the record was of Samuel the Lamanite? Nephi had forgotten to write it down. That’s like me. I need to do better at writing down everything that is going on right now. We live in unique times. We are having experiences which I will want to remember. It needs to be written down. (See https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/bofm/3-ne/23?lang=eng)
This weekend is General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Every 6 months this conference happens where the leaders of the Church share messages they have prepared as they have sought the Lord to guide them. It is a time which I cherish and love. I listen carefully and take notes. I relisten and reread these talks multiple times and try to glean all that I can from them and apply them to my life and personal challenges. (See: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference?lang=eng)
Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said in the April 2020 conference, “Along with the peaceful direction we receive from the Holy Ghost, from time to time, God powerfully and very personally assures each of us that He knows us and loves us and that He is blessing us specifically and openly. Then, in our moments of difficulty, the Savior brings these experiences back into our mind.” Elder Andersen goes on to say, “These spiritually defining moments come at different times and in different ways, individualized for each of us…. Embrace your sacred memories. Believe them. Write them down. Share them with your family. Trust that they come to you from your Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son.” (See the full talk here: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2020/04/15andersen?lang=eng )
So, yes, I need to do better at writing down my spiritual experiences.
We recently returned to Sunday worship services at the church building, albeit with a smaller group and with all the COVID0-19 precautions of masks, sanitizer, and distancing. This is now a new era. The era of staying home and having just our family together for our Sunday worship is coming to a close.
I don’t want to forget the feelings that I’ve felt as I’ve knelt and offered the sacrament prayer in the quiet of our front room, kneeling next to my family seated on the couch. dressed in or Sunday best, having Gavin pass the sacrament to us with the water in little medicine cups.
We often have the sacrament with my wife’s parents. That has been a neat experience to have her father bless the sacrament with me. I’ve felt the Spirit and have listened closely to the sacrament prayers. I’ve soaked in the image of my family taking the sacrament together. I’ve soaked up the image of my 17-year-old daughter, Emma, teaching the younger kids in “home primary”. I have joked that I called her to be the “home primary president.” For us, in a slightly remote area of the United States here in Port Angeles, Washington, a lot of this quarantine time over the past 6 months has been good. Sundays especially have been a sweet blessing and I hope to always remember this time.
(My response to someone self-described as “blue hair, asymmetrical nose piercings, gay, and identifies as Agnostic”)
I like your writing style. I hope that you really don’t think that all “Mormons” are bad. Just like any group of people, you’ll get all kinds. I think that even though I’m a faithful church-going, (well, at least before this COVID stuff since we couldn’t go to church for several months), member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (we try not to use “Mormon” as much now), that we could still be friends.
Of course I won’t join you and have a drink at the bar, unless it’s Diet Coke, then I will out-drink anyone. But I’ll happily discuss the insane affairs of our geopolitical climate, I’ll share a good pun or three, and I’ll tell you about all the good new wave music from the 80’s. (If you don’t listen to the Cure, then you should. I think you’d like them.)
So, my blue-haired gay friend, from this middle-aged average Mormon-guy, married with 6 kids, peace. Peace among all people; members of our church, those of other faiths, and those of no faith. I’ll worship my way. You worship your way… unless it was that pagan witchcraft thing that you mentioned. Then maybe not. haha. Just kidding. If that’s your thing, I guess go for it. Cheers from the Pacific Northwest!
I wanted to share something my wife, Jen, wrote yesterday about our experience Sunday. I’m grateful for this miracle, and cautious because I know hydrocephalus can turn on a dime and we can find ourselves in the emergency room again.
From Jen’s Facebook post:
If you’re tired of all the negativity in the world right now, here’s something positive. We had a crazy, wonderful day yesterday and I want to share it with all of you. Xavier woke up at about 6:30 a.m. yesterday with a horrible headache. He crawled into our bed, crying and weak and I propped him up on some pillows to help his head. Jason gave him a blessing. Xavier’s hands were shaking as he drank some Tylenol and then he was able to go back to sleep. While he slept, Jason and I each showered and got ready. We hoped he would feel better when he woke up, but we have seen this before and we knew he would likely need surgery.
He woke up a couple hours later and his headache wasn’t any better. I gave him some Ibuprofen and called the hospital to let them know what was happening. They agreed with us that he needed to be seen right away and told me to stop giving him any liquids to prepare him for surgery. We prayed as a family before we left that he would be healed if it was God’s will.
On the way to the hospital, he alternated between sleeping and crying. Once we arrived there he suddenly started feeling better. They did some x-rays which all looked actually pretty good. We were still kind of nervous about leaving, but after he was able to eat without getting sick, we felt like there was no reason to stay. It was a miracle because his shunt was definitely malfunctioning and we believe it was an answer to prayers that it started working again without any surgical intervention. I know God loves us all and He does indeed answer prayers. @ Seattle Children’s
When Xavier crawled into bed with us saying he had a headache and hearing those familiar cries of pain, my heart sank. Jen asked me to give him a blessing. I’m now 50 years old. I’ve given a lot of priesthood blessings. I try as much as possible to seek God’s will in the blessing and speak according to the guidance of the Spirit. Jen mentioned that she offered a prayer. I often think miracles come from a mother’s faith.
The 3 hour drive to Seattle Children’s Hospital is not fun when you have a sick child. I was so thankful that Xavier was able to sleep for part of the way. Whenever he was awake he was in pain and crying, holding his head. I can’t imagine the pain that he endures. In addition to that, I know some of the crying was just him thinking of having to go back to Seattle Children’s Hospital and have another surgery. While he was asleep, I kept thanking Heavenly Father for that blessing. I watched every mile that went by and knew that was one more mile that Xavier would not be in pain while he slept.
I have had my heart filled with cautious gratitude since being released. Don’t take that wrong, I am filled with gratitude. I am just cautious in knowing the reality of hydrocephalus and that a shunt failure is always possible again around the corner. For now, we are all feeling very blessed for every day that we go without another surgery.
Today in our family scripture reading we read in Alma 37. In verse 6 it says, “By small and simple things are great things brought to pass.”
I often wait to write a blog post because I want it to be something interesting, and I want it to be just the right topic at the right time. I try to follow promtings on what to write about.
This month I haven’t felt prompted to write much. When I think of this scripture, I realise that there always isn’t the perfect timing, the perfect subject, or the perfect wording for a blog post. I may not have time to polish it before posting. And you know what? That’s ok. Sure I may get some criticism. I’ve been told that I’m a horrible writer. I’ve been criticized for a number of things. Yet, maybe my blog, every now and then, is a small and simple thing which might lift someone’s spirits, or maybe brighten their day. Occasionally it may give someone the desire to find out more about the Book of Mormon, and come closer to Jesus Christ. Maybe it will inspire someone to be kind to another, or maybe to pray. Sure, I might have a typo or a grammar error; especially when I’m typing it out on my phone, like I am right now. That’s OK. I hope that we can all do what we can. I’m sure it will mean the world to someone.
Sam responded to my last blog and claimed that I was brainwashed for being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While he did become a little more confrontational, I wanted to respond because he said that I was avoiding engaging in meaningful conversation.
I do not like to become argumentative, and your tone seems to be a wee bit confrontational. There is a lot to unpackage. I’m responding, not to argue, but to give my reply for the record since you claim that I am brainwashed and that I don’t want to engage in meaningful conversation.
First, you said that I need to turn away from the “Demonic writings of the Book of Mormon”. Well, I can only say that I don’t think that you have sincerely read the Book of Mormon, or else you would not call it demonic. Within the Book of Mormon contain the literal words of Jesus Christ.
If there is one thing that I can make crystal clear, one thing that I would have you take away, it is that I know with absolute certainty, that The Book of Mormon is exactly what it says it is; Another testament (witness) of Jesus Christ. It is a companion to the Bible. Together they testify of our Savior, who was born to Mary, paid the price for our sins through His infinite Atonement, was crucified, and is now living. Jesus Christ is resurrected, an immortal eternal God who loves all of us, having engraved us upon His hands, He will not forget us. He is our Redeemer. He speaks to all mankind. He continues to speak to prophets today. He is unchanging. So I have not been brainwashed. At 8 years old I did get baptized, whereby my sins were washed away, but that’s still not brainwashed. I have committed my life to studying the gospel both in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. I have also studied other religions and beliefs. Through the years, I have come to know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I’ve put in much study, prayer, and fasting to come to where I am with my beliefs today. I have also tasted of the fruit of the gospel as I have lived it. I know of its goodness which is taught plainly in The Book of Mormon. As I read The Book of Mormon prayerfully, I see God’s fingerprints all over it. It is the word of God. It is a marvelous work and a wonder.
I’m not sure what you are referring to when you said that Joseph Smith taught that God was not eternal. Our first article of faith states clearly, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.”
You then claimed that I do not understand, and that I have misinterpreted 1 Peter in the New Testament. Therein lies the problem with trying to interpret all things from the Bible. That is why we have dozens if not hundreds of Christian denominations. They are all taking a slightly different view of the Bible. Suffice it to say, yes, we are coming at 1 Peter very differently. You have a different interpretation than I do when I read Peter’s words about Jesus preaching to the dead in the Spirit World. To me, it seems clear that Jesus went to these people to preach to them the gospel. In my previous reply, I had brought up the billions of people in China and elsewhere who have never heard of Jesus Christ, and that I do not think that God would punish them for something they had never even had the opportunity to embrace. That is why we believe in baptism for the dead to allow those who did not have the opportunity on earth while alive, to still have the opportunity to follow Jesus, by having someone vicariously baptized for them. They can accept that baptism or not. It is their choice. You reaffirmed your belief that all of those who never heard of Jesus Christ before death, would be banished to hell. So, again, we are going to have to agree to disagree on this point of doctrine.
You then stated that I am refusing to engage in meaningful conversation. What I am trying to say is that arguing and becoming angry does no good. I am always more than happy to share my beliefs as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am not keen on becoming argumentative and hostile.
You state that by my belief in modern-day prophets, I am sinning against Christ. I would say to you, the heavens are not closed. God continues to speak to mankind, just like the patterns we have seen all throughout the Bible as He spoke to prophets of old. God has not all-of-a-sudden lost interest in His children. He speaks to a living prophet today. I mentioned the articles of faith earlier. Another article of faith states that “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” This seems to be what you really disagree with. You really do not like that we do not see the Bible as the beginning and end of everything that God has to reveal to His children.
You took issue when I said that God was not limited to what had been chosen by men to be included in the Bible. The Bible is a compilation of different writings. The books that are included in the Bible were not chosen by those who wrote it. They were all dead when The New Testament canon was first compiled around 400 AD. There are countless people through the years who have translated it and transcribed it and therefore there are many interpretations and many things that were left out. (The gospels of Thomas, Peter, Mary, and the Epistle of Barnabas, etc.) Throughout the centuries, Protestant Bibles might look different than Catholic Bibles. The council of Trent met to define the Old Testament Canon. There have been many translations and transcriptions of the Bible. As someone who speaks another language, the translations process can simply give a scripture a very different meaning depending on how it is translated. To my knowledge, the Bible was not written in English, so someone had to interpret each words’ meaning as they translated it. So when we dig a little deeper, we find that the Bible might be missing some things, and that some of the translations may not be correct in today’s English language. That is why we continue to see many new translations and interpretations of the Bible.
Lastly you said that I deny that the Bible is enough. Yes. I think the Bible is the world of God. No, I do not think that is is all that God has to say to His children. I also do not think that it contains all of the writings of Him speaking to ancient prophets. Much is missing. You then went on and said that The Book of Mormon comes from the Bible and that I need to wake up and pick up the cross of Christ. (Which incidentally, if the Book of Mormon comes from the Bible, why would it be demonic?)
Joseph Smith wasn’t the first to be confused by which church was true by just reading what was in the Bible. John Wycliffe in England and John Calvin in Switzerland questioned the practices of the Christian church because they saw that the church in their time and the Church in New Testament times were not the same. Martin Luther saw that some of the practices of the Christian church were incorrect. He wanted to change the practices of the church that did not match the teachings of the Bible. And so it goes on today with so many denominations. There are many of our fellow Christians who interpret the Bible differently. Joseph Smith found himself wondering which Church was true. He read in the Epistle of James, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” He asked God and had a vision of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. He was told that none of the churches were true. He was called as a prophet to re-establish The Church of Jesus Christ.
Now I know that you don’t believe this, but this is what I believe. I do not want to argue, but I want to be a defender of my faith. The Book of Mormon was brought forth miraculously through God’s prophet Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith, speaking of his vision of seeing God the Father and Jesus Christ said, “I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation.”
My brother, I do not wish to contend with you and become argumentative. We both believe in the same God. We both pray to our Father in Heaven. We both rely on our Savior Jesus Christ to save us from a fallen world and from our sins. I will always gladly share my beliefs and answer sincere questions. Trust me, I have knelt in prayer, I have humbly read The Book of Mormon many, many times, searching through its pages finding treasures of truth and doctrine, and I have lived a life of its teachings. I can tell you it is of God.
I received another question and thought that I would share my response from someone I will call Sam. Sam said, “There is absolutely no biblical evidence for what you suggest by stating that a deceased person has any ability to accept your postmortem “proxy baptism”. It’s not easy to accept that they (loved ones) are eternally dammed. However unfortunate that is it is no less true.”
Sam, I think that is clearly a difference in our belief. I do not think God would eternally damn the billions of people in China because they do not believe in Jesus when they have never had the chance to even hear about Him and His gospel. I believe that God has a plan for all of His children who did not have a chance on earth to accept Jesus as their Savior.
My belief is that after we pass from this world, we continue to live in our spirit body. In this spirit world, those who did not have the chance on earth, can accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. Peter spoke of this when he said that “By which also he [Jesus Christ] went and preached unto the spirits in prison” (1 Peter 3:18)
Jesus taught Nicodemus, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:1–2, 5). I believe that we can perform proxy baptisms for those who are deceased. They can take upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ, from whom salvation comes.
It is a beautiful plan from a loving Father in Heaven who loves all of His children, including those in China and elsewhere throughout history who did not receive His truth while on earth.
Each person can interpret the Bible as he or she likes. However, I also believe in modern revelation and living prophets who can help clarify truths of the gospel which may not be very clear in the Bible.
As I’ve said before in a previous post, I don’t see going back and forth trying to interpret what a certain verse in the Bible means to you or to me from another perspective as being very productive. We can pick and choose a singular verse to make it seem like it is proving our point. I don’t want to cherry pick scriptures to try and prove a point.
I wish you well brother. God is not limited to what the apostles chose to write down from the teachings of Jesus’s mortal ministry and what the people who compiled the Bible decided to include. God is not limited to that being His only words. He is all-powerful. He is Alpha and Omega, the ever-living God. He loves His children wherever they may live, not just those who were living during biblical times. He continues to speak to us today. I seek Him. I want to know Him. I believe the Book of Mormon is rich with His words, and it is entirely compatible with the Bible, which I also believe is the word of God. God bless you my brother.
Q. What happens if the deceased person doesn’t want to repent or doesn’t want the blessings of baptism?
A. We believe that everyone is free to choose, both in this life and in the spirit world. This freedom is essential to the plan of our Heavenly Father. No one will be coerced into accepting ordinances performed on his or her behalf by another. Baptism for the dead offers an opportunity, but it does not override a person’s agency. But if this ordinance is not performed for them, deceased persons are robbed of the choice to accept or reject baptism.
Q. Why do you perform baptisms for deceased people whose lives on earth indicated little inclination to keep the commandments of God?
A. We believe that many people are like Amulek, who once said of himself, “I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning [the gospel of Jesus Christ], yet I would not know” (Alma 10:6). Amulek later became a great missionary and teacher of his people.
There was also a time in the Book of Mormon when the more righteous Lamanites hunted down the extremely hardened Gadianton robbers, and “they did preach the word of God among the more wicked part of them, insomuch that this band of robbers was utterly destroyed from among the Lamanites” (Hel. 6:37).
We simply do not know who among the dead will turn their hearts to the Lord and repent. We are not in a position to judge. We must do the work and leave the matter in the hands of the deceased person and the Lord.