Friday, April 29, 2011

Moving mountains

Many people have questioned the literal truth of the Lord's declaration that by faith mountains may be removed from their place.  Plainly there would have to be a purpose in harmony with the divine mind and plan, in order that faith could be exerted at all in such an undertaking.  Neither such a miracle nor any other is possible as a gratification of the yearning for curiosity, nor for display, nor for personal gain or selfish satisfaction.  Christ wrought no miracle with any such motive; He persistently refused to show signs to mere signseekers.  But to deny the possibility of a mountain being removed through faith, under conditions that would render such removal acceptable to God, is to deny the word of God, both as to this specific possibility, and as to the general assurance that "nothing shall be impossible" to him who hath faith adequate to the end desired.  It is worthy of note, however, that the Jews in the days of Christ and since often spoke of removing mountains as a figurative expression for the overcoming of difficulties.  According to Lightfoot and other authorities a man able to solve intricate problems, or of particular power in argument or acumen in judgment, was referred to as a "rooter up of mountains."

James E. Talmage (Jesus the Christ, p. 396)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Matthew Cunningham: now available for $2.99

Over the past year or so, LEGO has been selling a special line of collectible minifigures that come one to a pack, and include unique accessories that haven't before been seen from the LEGO mold.  They're like crack to the fanatic like me.

What makes these things so fun is trying to collect them all.  See, you don't know what you're getting until you open the pack, so you've either got to figure out the code of dots on the packaging or be really good at identifying pieces with only your fingers.  (Or, if you have the money, just buy a whole case and get the complete set that way.)

So, naturally, when the fourth series of these figures came out a few weeks ago, I was on it.  And I gotta hand it to LEGO: they really know their market.  Take the skater minifig for example--I can't quite put my finger on it, but he looks like someone I've seen quite a bit around the Lego aisle.

It's eerie, really.  Give him jeans and a hoodie, and replace the skateboard with an ice cream cone, and . . .

. . . he looks extremely familiar.  I swear I've seen this guy before . . . but where?

Oh yeah.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The old crew

And it came to pass when they had arrived in the borders of the land of the Lamanites, that they separated themselves and departed one from another, trusting in the Lord that they should meet again at the close of their harvest; for they supposed that great was the work which they had undertaken.  --Alma 17:13

This is an exciting time for me.  Friends are getting off their missions, and many of the acquaintanceships of high school are being restored.  Only a few guys are still gone, and that won't even be for very much longer yet.  There is much to be happy about.  But there is no reunion of friends I look forward to more than with the missionaries who have left from my own ward.

I have my friends who I met in school or on the mission, and then there are also the guys from my ward.  It's not that I love one group more than the other; wherever their origin, my best friends are my best friends.  There aren't necessarily favorites in such dealings.  It's more like apples and oranges: I love apples, but they're not oranges.  I love oranges, but they're not apples.  If I've gone a while without tasting one, I'll be excited when it comes back into season and incorporate both into my regular diet.

Yet even without merely playing favorites, what makes the guys from my ward so different that I am so eager for their reunion is that these are the people I grew up with.  An old saying goes that it takes a village to raise a child, and this was the village that raised me.  I was with this same group of guys in every Sunday School class until my mission.  We went to preschool together.  We played baseball and jumped on the trampoline and built a clubhouse.  In Boy Scouts, they were my troop.  It was they with whom I spent my summers around a campfire.  And it was around a campfire, gazing from the flame to the stars and back again, that I had the deepest philosophical discussions and made the most important decisions of my young life. Those were more than just "good times"--they were my defining moments.

That's one thing about the Church organization that makes it mean so much to me: a ward is a bond more like "family" than "friend."  We've never been the group of guys that calls each other up on Friday night and says "Let's go do something" (though it would be a lie to say we haven't done that at least a few times in the past).  Yet there's a closeness such that we don't have to hit the town in order to keep it going, and we're always there when we need each other. 
I said before that this is an exciting time for me.  Another one of these young men returned to my ward from a mission last week.  Only one remains away, and there are only a few months left until he joins us, too.  The old crew is coming together again, and with it, a piece of my identity that has been scattered these past few years.

And now it came to pass that as Alma was journeying from the land of Gideon southward, away to the land of Manti, behold, to his astonishment, he met with the sons of Mosiah journeying towards the land of Zarahemla.

Now these sons of Mosiah were with Alma at the time the angel first appeared unto him; therefore Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord; yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.  --Alma 17:1-2

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It's a Lego poetry slam!

Just had to put that goatee to use.  This also marks a huge milestone for me: all my life I swore I would never take a knife to a Lego piece, but I finally caved because that girl's face was too perfect for the scene to not use it . . . except she had a headset printed on.  I figured a little bit of paint scraping would be appropriate in this case, since I didn't like the printing anyway.  In addition to that, I cut a flex tube down to size for the microphone stand, but that's a practice I think that piece was made for anyway.  Still, first time for everything!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Logging off

My cousin Tanner linked to a great article that I couldn't help but share here.  It's about a trip some scientists took into the wilderness to research the effects of nature on the brain during an age of heavy use of digital devices.  From The New York Times:

. . .  Mr. Strayer, the trip leader, argues that nature can refresh the brain. “Our senses change. They kind of recalibrate — you notice sounds, like these crickets chirping; you hear the river, the sounds, the smells, you become more connected to the physical environment, the earth, rather than the artificial environment.”

“That’s why they call it vacation. It’s restorative,” Mr. Braver says. He wonders if there’s any science behind the nature idea. “Part of being a good scientist is being skeptical.”

Mr. Braver accepts the Michigan research but wants to understand precisely what happens inside the brain. And he wonders: Why don’t brains adapt to the heavy stimulation, turning us into ever-stronger multitaskers?

“Right,” says Mr. Kramer, the skeptic. “Why wouldn’t the circuits be exercised, in a sense, and we’d get stronger?”

. . .  “Time is slowing down,” Mr. Kramer says. He has been moving quickly his whole life, since he left home at 15, and has elevated himself to a position of great influence. It’s the second day on the river, and he has finished packing his tent. He’s the first of the morning to do so, but he feels no urgency.

He has not read any of the research papers he brought. And the $25 million e-mail? “I was never worried about it. I haven’t thought about it,” he says, as if the very idea were silly.

Mr. Kramer says the group has become more reflective, quieter, more focused on the surroundings. “If I looked around like this at work, people would think I was goofing off,” he says.

The others are more relaxed too. Mr. Braver decides against coffee, bypassing his usual ritual. The next day, he neglects to put on his watch, though he cautions against reading too much into it. “I sometimes forget to put my watch on at home, but in fairness, I usually have my phone with me and it has a clock on it.”

Mr. Strayer, the believer, says the travelers are experiencing a stage of relaxation he calls “third-day syndrome.” Its symptoms may be unsurprising. But even the more skeptical of the scientists say something is happening to their brains that reinforces their scientific discussions — something that could be important to helping people cope in a world of constant electronic noise.

“If we can find out that people are walking around fatigued and not realizing their cognitive potential,” Mr. Braver says, then pauses and adds: “What can we do to get us back to our full potential?” 

If that sounds familiar, it probably is:

Our physical bodies make possible a breadth, a depth, and an intensity of experience that simply could not be obtained in our premortal estate. . . . In the classroom of mortality, we experience tenderness, love, kindness, happiness, sorrow, disappointment, pain, and even the challenges of physical limitations in ways that prepare us for eternity. Simply stated, there are lessons we must learn and experiences we must have, as the scriptures describe, “according to the flesh” (1 Nephi 19:6; Alma 7:12-13).

. . . If the adversary cannot entice us to misuse our physical bodies, then one of his most potent tactics is to beguile you and me as embodied spirits to disconnect gradually and physically from things as they really are. In essence, he encourages us to think and act as if we were in our premortal, unembodied state. And, if we let him, he can cunningly employ some aspects of modern technology to accomplish his purposes. Please be careful of becoming so immersed and engrossed in pixels, texting, earbuds, twittering, online social networking, and potentially addictive uses of media and the Internet that you fail to recognize the importance of your physical body and miss the richness of person-to-person communication. Beware of digital displays and data in many forms of computer-mediated interaction that can displace the full range of physical capacity and experience.

--Elder David A. Bednar, Things as They Really Are, from an address given May 3, 2009.

I would recommend reading the entirety of Elder Bednar's article to anyone, regardless of religious persuasion, because it outlines some very important points about making use of our day's technological advances without becoming slaves to them.  Reading it was one of the biggest things that convinced me to change the way I blog from how I used to (you long-time readers will know exactly what I mean--remember my daily novels?).  I'm happier now for following that counsel, and even though there is still room for me to improve, I have already experienced a greater degree of freedom and satisfaction in my life by simply logging off.  Forgot my phone the other day, and it felt awesome!

It's nice to see science catching up to that concept.  Pretty neat.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Keepin' it ReAL

Some particularly epic moments out on the field:

From the Deseret News:

It was cold, it was windy, and a scoreless draw seemed like an inevitability. Real Salt Lake fans knew better though.

When RSL is facing rival Colorado anything can happen — and usually does. Like clockwork, it happened again Wednesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Fabian Espindola's tap-in goal in the 93rd minute lifted Real Salt Lake to a gutty 1-0 victory over the Rapids in front of 15,513 chilly, yet loyal supporters.

There couldn't have been a more perfect moment than that last-minute goal.  We cheered like we had won the World Cup, the drums beat harder and louder than before, everyone was jumping up and down and ecstatic hugs went all around.  It will forever be etched in my memory.

Not bad for my first RSL game!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Five Mile Pass

Four guys.  One playground.

Don't miss the timer!

And just because:

More pics here.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The latest Mormon-"ism"

I'm certainly not the first to be posting this; online Latter-day Saints are spreading our new meme like wildfire, and how joyous an experience it has been!  For those who haven't seen it, here is the footage from the end of Conference this past Sunday:

Every time I see this, I can't help but laugh my butt off and play it again.  Perhaps even better are all the jokes that are sprouting from this guy's fun little Conference moment.  Special thanks to two of my friends Sarah for pointing them out to me:

(More posters can be seen at LDS Friends.)

The famous Conference Smiler is one Daniel from Australia, who said of his moment on camera (via YouTube), "I stood up and saw the back of my head on the big screen so I thought the nice thing to do would be to smile, so I did."  Way to be, Daniel.  I'm glad you got to be here for Conference, and that you did smile at the camera--not just because I've gotten some great laughs from it, but because of the simple lesson you teach in that the Gospel is all about happiness.  At the very least, it brightened my day.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Flecks of gold

Well, it's the Monday after General Conference, so let's talk about it!  Every so often I'll probably be posting my favorite talks here (there sure were some awesome ones), but out of all of them I think my top favorite might have been by Elder M. Russell Ballard.  I love what he had to say about being positive and treating other people the way Christ would treat them:

All of this weekend's talks can be found here.  I'm grateful for the things that have been said, as well as those personal things that the Spirit whispered to me during the conference that I needed to know.  I'm excited for the opportunity to study these words and apply them in my life to become a better person. 

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is simple and optimistic.  It brings me happiness and leads me to make good changes in my life.  The heavens are indeed open.  God answers prayer and speaks to the individual, and He also speaks to the entire world through His chosen messengers in this day, just as He did anciently.  He is as active in His work today as He was at the creation of the world.  And He is concerned and involved in every one of our lives.  That's why General Conference means so much to me: because God is watching over all of us, and will not leave us without guidance.  
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