My Life in Zion

The life and views of a Latter-day Saint in the 21st Century…

The Newly Called Alabama Birmingham Mission President: Stanford C. Sainsbury

A photo of Stanford Sainsbury from the Daily Herald upon his retirement in 2012. Photo by Jim Mcauley

A photo of Stanford Sainsbury from the Daily Herald upon his retirement in 2012. Photo by Jim Mcauley

With yesterday’s exciting announcement of 3 new missions being created in the world, the Church also publicly listed nearly all of the 168 new mission presidents who will begin service this summer with their wives.

Here in the great state of Alabama we will be welcoming Stanford C. Sainsbury and his wife Sister Melanee Sainsbury.

Living on a 50 acre farm in West Mountain, Utah (Payson/Spanish Fork Area), President and Sister Sainsbury will be leaving behind their lives and trading in the Rocky Mountains for Appalachian Hills for the next three years. Sainsbury, who turned 60 just last month, with his wife Melanee, are the parents of seven children. President Sainsbury spent his professional life as an employee for the city or Orem, Utah. After graduation from BYU and earning a law degree, Sainsbury spent 10 years as a city prosecutor for Orem city, then deputy city attorney. During that time he became a certified planner. He then spent his final 16 years of employment as the director of development services. He retired in December of 2012 after 29 years of service for the City of Orem.

A graduate of BYU, President Sainsbury served a full-time mission as a young man in Sweden under the direction of President Paul Oscarson. President Oscarson, who was only 29 years of age at the time of his call as mission president, was known for his youth and enthusiasm in the Swedish Mission. Perhaps President Sainsbury will bring some of the same vigor of his full-time mission as a young man to Alabama as the mission president. His wife, Sister Melanee Anderson, is originally from Manassa, Colorado. According to an online profile from President Sainsbury he enjoys “[spending] time visiting children, working in the yard and garden, farming, following BYU sports, spending time in the temple, ward callings, traveling, reading,etc.”

President and Sister Sainsbury have served in a variety of church callings throughout the years, including recently as a ward mission leader for President Sainsbury.

As members of the Church residing in the Alabama Birmingham Mission we will deeply miss President Richard D. Hanks and his beloved wife Elizabeth. However, we recognize that with the hastening of the work comes a hastening of the years, and we are thankful to be have been blessed with the acquaintance of such fine saints here in Dixie. President Sainsbury will have very large shoes to fill, both figuratively and literally, but we have no doubt that with the blessings of the Lord he will do so exceptionally.

President and Sister Sainsbury. (Picture from one of their personal blogs - they also blogged here for a period of time.)

President and Sister Sainsbury. (Picture from one of their personal blogs – they also blogged here for a period of time.)

 

Your Life Reflects the Value You’re Giving the World

I saw this article on Business Insider earlier today and it really resonated with me in every way.

I believe wholly that you get in life what you give to life. You’ll get from others what you give to others. And you’ll make in life only what you make out of life.

Obviously Elon Musk’s first wife, Justine Musk, agrees.

From Business Insider:

Justine Musk, first wife of billionaire Elon Musk, knows a thing or two about wealth and hard work — her ex-husband is a founder of PayPal, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, and has an estimated net worth of $12.1 billion. 

She recently posted a response to a Quora thread asking the question “Will I become a billionaire if I am determined to be one and put in all the necessary work required?”

Her answer is “no,” though she says that the Quora reader is asking the wrong question altogether. 

“You’re determined. So what? You haven’t been racing naked through shark-infested waters yet,” she writes. “Will you be just as determined when you wash up on some deserted island, disoriented and bloody and ragged and beaten and staring into the horizon with no sign of rescue?”

She then offers some advice: 

“Shift your focus away from what you want (a billion dollars) and get deeply, intensely curious about what the world wants and needs. Ask yourself what you have the potential to offer that is so unique and compelling and helpful that no computer could replace you, no one could outsource you, no one could steal your product and make it better and then club you into oblivion (not literally). Then develop that potential. Choose one thing and become a master of it.  Choose a second thing and become a master of that.  When you become a master of two worlds (say, engineering and business), you can bring them together in a way that will a) introduce hot ideas to each other, so they can have idea sex and make idea babies that no one has seen before and b) create a competitive advantage because you can move between worlds, speak both languages, connect the tribes, mash the elements to spark fresh creative insight until you wake up with the epiphany that changes your life.

The world doesn’t throw a billion dollars at a person because the person wants it or works so hard they feel they deserve it. (The world does not care what you want or deserve.)  The world gives you money in exchange for something it perceives to be of equal or greater value: something that transforms an aspect of the culture, reworks a familiar story or introduces a new one, alters the way people think about the category and make use of it in daily life. There is no roadmap, no blueprint for this; a lot of people will give you a lot of advice, and most of it will be bad, and a lot of it will be good and sound but you’ll have to figure out how it doesn’t apply to you because you’re coming from an unexpected angle. And you’ll be doing it alone, until you develop the charisma and credibility to attract the talent you need to come with you.

Have courage. (You will need it.)

And good luck.  (You’ll need that too.)”

Your Children’s Children Will Curse You

constitution and flag

I am resigned to the sad fact that most people will not read this. However, it is my hope that those few who do might have stirred within them thoughts that may lead to a positive influence in others for change.

Our nation is in a time of great discord and divisive rhetoric. One need only watch the news or check their Facebook feed to see that politicians on both sides of the aisle deride the other side as wicked and contemptuous. The Right cry foul against the Left and the Left mock the stagnated ideals of the Right. “Civil Rights” and “Equality” movements have done nothing but drive a wedge between family, friends, and neighbors. “White” and “Black” are words that carry more weight and division than in the previous fifty years of progress, and income inequality looms as the true challenge facing the rising generation, yet our government, bloated beyond all reasonable comprehension, finds new ways to tax us in inexplicable ways.

I can side with neither Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, because the platforms of those two parties and respective candidates do nothing but perpetuate vile words against the other, legislative slothfulness, and moral decay in the way of bending to lobbyists and personal agendas. In our great nation we are no longer represented by our respective representatives, rather they play like puppets to the corporate donors while the general population chooses to sit back in uneducated, uninformed, and unilaterally sheep-like ways. If one on the Left dare challenge one on the Right as to why they might defend a certain political position, what they are most likely to receive in return is an egotistical aggrandizement of the others beliefs without thoughtful claims to back them up. So few people stand on educated principles of any kind that there is an entire generation of voters who will bend simply to the recommendation of a catchy YouTube video or Twitter account.

Ours is a sad day.

We need a revolution. A whole hearted, full fledged, true to the definition revolution.

We need this revolution and change in the way we act as individuals, as families, as neighbors, and as an entire society. We need more civility, more kindness, and to be better informed, because, perhaps like never before, the general populous is entirely clueless as to how our government actually works. And then, I pray to God then, when people become informed, there might be a true revolution in the way we vote and the government officials we elect.

We need change, and it’s not the kind that comes in building social welfare programs and debasing others of their hard earned dollars, basic right and civil liberties.

When the First Continental Congress met in the fall of 1774 they met as 56 delegates from 12 colonies in response to the Coercive Acts. The Coercive Acts were passed by the British Parliament in response, and revenge, to the Boston Tea Party. In turn, feeling under represented and overly oppressed, these 56 delegates met to discuss their basic rights and to issue grievances to the British Crown. The Congress, a rag tag group of what most at the time considered radicals, ended up becoming the framework for those who would lead, push, and declare The United States of America as their own sovereign nation less than two years later. As the fall of 1774 turned to winter, the American Colonies were full of mixed feelings. Many felt betrayed by their government. Many wanted to remain loyal, yet yearned for something better, something more. And many, like today, simply did not care. However, the media of the day was hot with debate, with some of the hottest coming as the cold of winter set in.

On the 15th day of December of 1774 a seventeen year old Alexander Hamilton would publish one of his first political pamphlets: A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress. Some 35 pages long, the pamphlet was written in response to another media spinner of the day who wrote under the pseudonym of A.W. Farmer. You see, the anonymous Mr. Farmer had written a tract which was becoming wide read and popular that season as colonists and New Englanders settled in for the winter. Mr. Farmer’s tract stated simply that the Continental Congress was evil and all loyalty should be paid to the status quo (aka the British Monarchy). The Young Mr. Hamilton’s eloquent response in Full Vindication summarily nullified the fictitious Farmer’s words though, and stated that the Continental Congress, and the Americans in general, should seek for a better way, a new status quo. Hamilton’s response, addressed to his “friends and countrymen” called upon them to recognize their rights while remaining civil in their obedience (or disobedience) to their current government, and to actually wake up and do something.

Alexander Hamilton, much like today, was dealing with political indifference, colonial collusion, and people who wanted change but were too afraid to do something about it. He wrote in part to his friends and countrymen:

“Is it not better, I ask, to suffer a few present inconveniences, than to put yourselves in the way of losing every thing that is precious? Your lives, your property, your religion are all at stake. I do my duty. I warn you of your danger. If you should still be so mad as to bring destruction upon yourselves; if you still neglect what you owe to God and man, you cannot plead ignorance in your excuse. Your consciences will reproach you for your folly; and your children’s children will curse you.”

Today our federal government saves and stores every single digital communication without regard for privacy. Our politicians disregard the law and their own constituents. Taxes are rising, as is inflation, and the middle class is slipping away. Future generations will read their history and wonder how in the world we elected so many corrupt presidents, senators, governors, and others with their evils publicized right before our eyes. Today our Constitution, that sacred standard, is thought of as a thing of naught, and good is called evil while evil is called good.

We are in danger.

The danger is right in front of us.

It is up to us, as individuals and Americans to fix it.

My dear friends and countrymen, we cannot be vindicated in our inaction in allowing the status quo to continue. I cannot bear the thought of the nation and world my children will witness if things do not soon change.

If you and I do not change our children and our children’s children will curse us for the evil of doing nothing and the lack of domestic tranquility which we have fostered for their generations.

Stan Way

What I’m Expecting from General Conference

God the Father by Cima da  Conegliano.

God the Father by Cima da Conegliano, c 1515.

When people ask me what my favorite holiday is I always say Christmas, because y’know, it’s Christmas and it’s awesome, but then I always tell them it is followed by April General Conference and October General Conference. No lie. Members of the Church and nonmember alike get the same answer. This often leads to coworkers and friends asking if we actually celebrate these conferences in a liturgical calendar, which of course we don’t, “But,” I say, “we get to hear from living prophets of God, and that’s pretty awesome to me.”

Needless to say I’m “the religious guy” at work because of such answers, with many of my coworkers calling me a minister.

This evokes a lot of laughter from me.

But as the sun creeped over the horizon this morning and woke me up in our small apartment here in Mountain Brook, Alabama, I knew today would be a historic and memorable day. And it really does feel like Christmas morning. Not because there is a huge set of ornaments set up here in our home (unless you count the church paintings and the temple statues), but because it really is festive in the air for me! Today I will get to hear the word of the Lord from His mouthpieces. Imperfect men delivering a perfect message. There will be no physical gifts today, but instead there will be eternal gifts that will bless me and my family now and throughout the eternities. How could I not be excited for that?

I used to look forward to General Conference excited to hear the “next big thing”, the latest “revelation”, and monumental announcements. When President Hinckley announced the Perpetual Education Fund I remember sitting in my small chapel with my brethren in Jasper, Alabama and thinking, “Yep folks. That’s revelation right there. Awesome sauce.” When President Hinckley announced in the first Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting (not conference, but close enough) that missionaries would now be “teaching by the Spirit” I remember sitting back in that pew in the Bessemer Alabama Stake Center and thinking, “Yep folks. That’s revelation right there. Cool beans.” And every time there are temples announced, from Rome, Italy to Cedar City, Utah I’ve sat back and thought to myself, “Yep folks. That’s some mighty fine revelation there. Jesus rocks.” However, in recent years as I’ve matured and grown spiritually I’ve come to realize that the “big” announcements at General Conference aren’t where most of the revelations from the Lord come. The true revelation comes in pondering and applying the simplest of words spoken over that pulpit in each talk.

When Julie B. Beck gave her “Mothers that Know” talk, I knew exactly the kind of wife I wanted. And I have been so blessed to find her.

When Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin gave his talk “Come What May and Love It” I knew he was speaking directly to me.

When President Uchtdorf gave the talk “Your Potential, Your Privilege” I knew it was just for me.

When Elder Holland has given pretty much any talk I’ve known it was given directly to me. And so it has been with every talk each and every conference, from Elder Whiting’s “Temple Standard” to Elder Soares’ “Be Meek and Lowly of Heart”, they have all been just for me. As I’ve listened to them, watched them again, played them on my Gospel Library App while driving, and pondered them in the hours of the night I’ve come to find that every single General Conference talk has been applicable to me and amplified my spiritual life.

Of course I have my favorite speakers. But even the most random of Seventy who speaks on Sunday afternoon has prepared the words the Lord has inspired him to give.

Since I was a teenager I have always imagined the Lord attending General Conference casually, unseen of course, but close by as the Brethren and Sisters speak. It is His conference after all (as Elder Hales reminded us so beautifully just six months ago). He is there, and He will be with us today.

This General Conference I am expecting a lot. I’ve put in a tall order for the guidance I’ll be needing for the next six months. This will be my first General Conference as a husband to my dear and sweet wife. It is my first General Conference as an expecting father. And recently I was called to a calling which will require far more time, commitment, and resources from me than I currently feel I have. This General Conference I will be listening with a new ear and a new heart, and looking for things not just for myself, but for my family and for those I am called to minister to. In short, I’m expecting a lot this weekend. And I know I will not be let down.

I imagine God sits and looks down on us rather lovingly during these weekends. A few million of His children gathering to try and listen to His voice. There, from celestial glory, I imagine His perspective is eternal and the love He wishes to convey is unending. Perhaps His arms are even outstretched to show His affection for us. If only we could hear Him more closely perhaps we could always see Him like this, as our Father trying to help us get back home.

This weekend we will hear His voice and the voice of His Son.

It’s better than Christmastime here in the Way Household!

 

If you would like to join in and enjoy General Conference live this weekend or re-watch it at a future date you can do so by clicking here.

Change Your Course

light house at night

On Mondays I go into work late. When my wife takes her lunch from work she drives the five minutes back to our home and we enjoy our Monday lunches together.

Today when Anna Melissa came home for lunch our conversation turned to our goals as a family, where we want to be personally in a few months as we prepare to be parents, where we want to live, our careers, and other imposing subjects. After a brief conversation and exchanging of thoughts and ideas she asked almost rhetorically, “What have you done today to get us towards those goals?” She then went on and shared some of her thoughts and aspirations for us as a couple.

The question got me thinking, even though it was asked in a passing and indirect manner, “What have I done today?” And I was happy to be able to affirm to myself that I was on the right course.

Yesterday I taught our priesthood quorum in our new branch. I taught from the talk given by Elder Ulisses Soares in our last General Conference, Be Meek and Lowly of Heart, and encouraged the brethren to change whatever might be in their lives that might be keeping them from the meekness that Elder Soares so beautifully describes. We discussed tempers, pride, family relationships, marriage, children, and how easy it is to get off course. In closing I told a story about once when my pride had gotten the better of me in my life. I told them how my arrogance led to a loss of the Holy Spirit, and how eventually coming to realize I was wrong and then asking forgiveness had brought a cleansing and peaceful spirit into my life. “Change your course brethren if your lack of meekness is causing a lack of the Spirit in your life,” was the gist of what I said.

Afterwards multiple brethren came up and thanked me for the lesson. It wasn’t me though. I hadn’t even wanted to teach from that specific talk. But a loving God knew what needed to be said to that group of people at that time and He said it through the weakest vessel He had.

You may remember the story about the ship captain who had a problem with his pride. One night at sea, this captain saw what looked like the light of another ship heading toward him. He had his signalman blink to the other ship: “Change your course 10 degrees south.” The reply came back, “Change your course 10 degrees north.” The ship’s captain answered: “I am a captain. Change your course south.” To which the reply came, “Well, I am a seaman first class. Change your course north.” This so infuriated the captain, he signaled back, “I say change your course south. I am on a battleship!” To which the reply came back, “And I say change your course north. I am in a lighthouse.”

Sometimes in our lives we just need to stop whatever we are doing and change. We need to change course. We need to let go of our pride, our intellect, and our own wills and admit that there is a better way. The greatest Way of course which is the Savior’s Way and example. Treating our family, friends, coworkers, and everyday associates with love, respect, and kind words is always the best path to follow. Jesus Christ is the ultimate lighthouse. The trick is making sure to change our courses according to His prescribed plan.

 

 

 

Why Dogs Die Young

I’ve seen this shared numerous times online this week. It is supposedly a story from the perspective a veterinarian and his experience with a young boy who saw his dog put down. It is touching, and makes me wonder what the world would be like if we would just all listen to the wisdom of children…

DogDeathfromAKidPerspective

Following God’s Plan

My wife and I on our wedding day at The Birmingham Alabama Temple.

My wife and I on our wedding day at The Birmingham Alabama Temple.

Last night my wife and I were about to sit down and enjoy a couple of episodes of The Big Bang Theory. I’ve always loved the show, and since getting married, she’s taken a great liking to it too. We’re only on day 23 of our marriage, but somehow we’ve rushed through the first three seasons of DVD’s and are now on season four. I’m not sure how many episodes that boils down to us watching per day of our marriage, but I’m going to assume it’s higher than we would probably like to admit. The antics of Sheldon Cooper just cannot be matched. In any case, we were sitting down on the couch last night and I felt that I needed to take a moment to point something out.

“Baby, I have to tell you something,” I said looking Anna Melissa straight in the eyes. I realized I had used a bit more of a forceful tone that I had intended to use and she looked at me like I had just said something ominous.

“Okay, go ahead,” she said somewhat reluctantly. She sat back into the corner of the couch with her legs crossed in front of her, as if she was bracing for some big storm of words. We’ve had nothing but a perfectly blissful marriage so far. Perhaps she thought this would be the moment when perfection finally ceased? She furrowed her eyebrows and looked me straight on.

I apologized for sounding so drastic, and then said something that has in a real sense overwhelmed me for the past few days.

“Y’know,” I started off casually, “if you had asked me a year ago where I would be today I would have never have dreamed it would have been here with you. I had completely different life dreams, and a vision, and a plan. This is in no way part of that,” I said as I motioned around our small apartment living room. “But,” I continued, “I cannot imagine my life being any happier than I am right now. I cannot imagine being happier in any way at all, and I love you, and I’m thankful that I married you.”

That was it.

She gave me that “Awwwe Shucks” face of her’s which is adorable, and she leaned forward for a kiss. We shared a few more brief words of how happy we are together, and then the night continued on with our recorded sitcom television. Just a few seconds worth of conversation in a lifetime full of events, but what I said was true, and as I sit here today it is still echoing in my mind.

A year ago I had big plans. They involved moving back to Utah, an eventual marriage (to some unknown beauty), being a published author by the end of the year, and a goal to learn to play the guitar. Then the first Sunday in February I met Anna Melissa. There are varying accounts to how that first interaction proceeded (I was after all asking her friend out on a date when we met), but suffice it to say I married the right gal. She is the most perfect woman in the world for me and, and as I told her last night, I could not be any happier. I would not change a single thing about the previous year. But it’s funny how life just happens amidst all of our well laid plans.

A few months ago I was listening to This American Life on NPR. The story was about the Plan B’s of life. Not people’s Plan A. But Plan B. The thing that they ended up doing after their Plan A to achieve all of their hopes and dreams and when things just didn’t work out. The engaging story included the tale of Ceurvo Man, a hired personality on a small island owned by Jose Cuervo where the liquor company does elite weekend getaways. There was also a story about a man named Barry Keenan who had gotten rich at a very young age and then lost it all, only to end up trying to kidnap Frank Sinatra Jr.

“Jeez!” I thought to myself driving down the interstate to a new job I had recently started, “I’m glad my life didn’t end up like that.” Yes, I once wanted to rich and famous, but I haven’t become a felon or tried kidnapping any D-List celebrities along the way.

It turns out Mr. Keenan’s efforts to kidnap young Frank Jr. never really worked out. However, it really got me to thinking, what was my life’s Plan A? What were my hopes and dreams? Why didn’t I achieve them? And as I got to thinking I realized that I never really planned well enough for my Plan A, or B, and somehow despite my best efforts at planning I was probably somewhere between Plan Q and Plan 22.7 subsection C.

In the Mormon culture we’re always referring to The Plan of Happiness, or God’s Plan, or The Plan of Salvation. The great and epic plan for all of our lives, planned, prepared, and perpetuated since before the beginning of time. It’s the way we’re supposed to get back to God’s presence. It applies to everyone in the world and we’re bound by covenant to try and share it with the world. There is, after all, no better way to share the gospel than to invite a friend over for some Kool Aid, smile really big, and invite them to learn about The Plan of Happiness. – No. Nothing weird about that at all. – Sometimes I think we get lost in our own life plans though, planning for education, or marriage, or kids, and sometimes lose sight of God’s plan for our lives.

On September 28th of this past year in the annual Relief Society General Meeting Sister Linda K. Burton taught that covenant keeping strengthens, empowers, and protects us. She said simply,

“Covenant keeping is essential for true happiness.”

She continued by saying that covenant keeping also demonstrates our love for the Father and the Son, and that ordinances are spiritual milestones, noting that they are the crucial test of life is to see if we will make and keep covenants.

Is my life where I planned it to be a year ago, or five years ago, or even a decade ago? No. But is yours? Have all of your plans came to fruition?

Yet I’m happy. Indeed, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. And even if I am on Plan 22.7 subsection C I know that my happiness comes from obedience to the Lord, His gospel, and my covenants. I married the right person in the right place at the right time, and we could not be happier.

My life is evidence that sometimes Plan A, or Plan B just don’t work out. My life is evidence that screw ups have a chance, and that the greatest happiness in life comes from just doing the most plain and simple things we’re asked to do.

Where will me and my family be in five years? It’s hard to say. But I have no doubt that as we follow God’s plan in our lives we’ll find the greatest joy there is to be found in this life.

In the meantime, I’m sure we’ll be catching up on The Big Bang Theory.

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