My Life in Zion

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

Archive for the tag “General Conference”

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.

Missing General Conference

President Thomas S. Monson sits in the audience at the Tabernacle on Temple Square on October 4, 1963, moments before he was sustained as a General Authority and invited to the stand.

President Thomas S. Monson sits in the audience at the Tabernacle on Temple Square on 4 October 1963, moments before he was sustained as a General Authority and invited to the stand.

Fifty years ago today President Thomas S. Monson was called as the newest member of the Quorum of the Twelve. What a historic fifty years of church growth it has been!

As I’ve been looking at the above picture of young Elder Monson this morning my heart has been filled with mixture of great joy and also deep sadness over this upcoming weekend’s Semiannual General Conference.

This will be the first General Conference I will have not watched live since April of 2001 when I was in high school. Each spring and autumn since my teenage years has been like a holiday to as I’ve prepared mentally, spiritually, and even temporally for the upcoming General Conference and the opportunity to listen to and sustain prophets, seers, and revelators. When people ask me what my favorite holiday is, I usually answer “General Conference” and then proceed to tell them about what an awesome event that it is.

Starting a year and a half ago I started live- tweeting during General Conference using the #LDSconf hashtag on Twitter. To some this might have seemed like a distraction. But the opportunities it has given me to listen with new ears to the talks, and to instantly feel connected to my Latter-day Saint brothers and sisters throughout the world has helped me to gain greater insight into the gospel and even create new and meaningful friendships with people throughout the world.

But this year is different.

I have recently started a brand new job, and am preparing to be married in just two short months. In the days leading up to Conference I have prayed, and begged the Lord for ways to help me get my shift covered. I have offered my coworkers cold hard cash of $100 to take my shift (a double shift actually and 12 hour day) to pick it up for me, but to no avail. Working in a 100% commission job on a college football Saturday in Alabama isn’t exactly profitable. So I understand the lack of interest in assisting me.

Every year since 2001 I’ve taken a three or four day weekend to prepare for, enjoy, and then reflect on General Conference. But this year it just won’t be so. This year, instead of hearing about the new temples to be built (my guesses are on a new temple in Utah and one in Brazil, plus probably a couple of more) I’ll be selling cell phones in Alabaster, Alabama. This Conference instead of enjoying a lunch at the chapel with full-time missionaries during the World Report I’ll be sharing phone operating system suggestions with strangers on a showroom floor. No sustainings. No airplane stories from President Uchtdorf and no ear wiggling from President Monson. Just work.

If it sounds like I’m being melodramatic it’s because I probably am.

Yeah, yeah. I get it. General Conference can be DVR’d. “Most people don’t watch it live anyways,” you might be saying to yourself. “You can just read the Ensign,” might be a logical thing to say.

But to me it’s like I’m having to work on my Christmas Day. I’m missing Christmas Eve, and the opening of my presents. I’m missing my family and my friends.

General Conference just won’t be the same.

Last night as I knelt down to pray and I felt downright depressed. If Eeyore (Winnie the Pooh’s forlorn friend) had materialized into a real life human being he was the guy kneeling beside my bed. I began my prayer in such a sad sounding humdrum manner as to make Eeyore sound cheerful even.

“I’m going to missing Conference Heavenly Father,” I stated flatly. “Maybe it won’t be this way come April,” I lamented with the inflection of a jilted 13 year old girl.

God is rather patient with me I’ve come to realize.

I complained about my work shift. My new job. Feeling depressed. And everything else I could muster a murmur about.

And as I was about to say in the most reverent way possible, “Thanks for not helping me get that shift covered,” I paused as the Spirit spoke directly to me in my mind:

“You’re going to watch it Stan. I’m providing for you and your marriage.”

And instantly all of the other prayers I’ve offered recently about helping me in my job, helping me to prepare for marriage, and so much more came flooding into my mind.

Kneeling before my bed I stopped in silence, realizing that yes, I would watch the Conference Sessions. Probably even rewatch them each two times in the coming week. God was answering my other prayers and I was just too juvenile to realize it.

I felt guilty for complaining and being so forlorn, and I instantly began begging again to God, only this time for forgiveness of my sins.

This weekend I’ll miss watching live as our church leaders speak. I’ll miss the Tweets from my friends in Africa, India, England, and Utah. I’ll miss having lunch with the full-time missionaries (and this time my fiance), and walking around the park nearby my local chapel and observing the first traces of fall in the leaves.

I’ll miss those things.

But I know that I’ll get to enjoy, listen to, relisten to, and apply the teachings of modern day prophets and apostles in the very near future, even if I hear them via DVR and the internet.

Fifty years ago today Thomas S. Monson was called as an apostle. As I’ve looked at the picture above this morning I’ve thought of what must have been racing through his mind at that very moment right before he was called forth from the congregation. Did he have any idea where life would lead him? Did he have the beginning of a glimpse into what his life’s ministry would be?

Time flies when you’re having fun. And perhaps the funnest parts of life are serving the Lord.

I’ll miss hearing the words of President Monson in the morning. But I am thankful that God has answered my prayers. Perhaps I won’t make a single red cent tomorrow in Alabaster, Alabama selling cell phones. But who knows why God arranged for me to work there tomorrow? Perhaps I’m supposed to just be there to brighten someone’s day?

In any case, I have no problem missing General Conference as long as I know it’s what has been prepared for me by the Lord. Fifty years from now I’ll be able to look back on this weekend and tell my grandchildren how extremely heartbroken I was to miss listening to men and women of God, and I hope and pray it will instill in them a desire to always listen to a prophet’s voice. Or, perhaps I’ll get to tell them about the time I met a family that got baptized because I ended up working on a General Conference weekend…

One can always hope.

In any case I hope that you have a happy Conference Weekend my friends! I look forward to hearing how all of you enjoyed it.

Stan

If you’re not Mormon and somehow stumbled upon this post about how I’m a big ol’ complainer and LDS General Conference, I’m glad you did! I hope you’ll take the time to learn more about my faith. To learn more please just click here. You’ll be glad you did.

Joy in the Temple

As is usual, it’s far later than I had planned on getting to bed this evening, but it has been totally worth it.

Once again General Conference is upon us. I’ve blogged before about how much I love Conference, how it’s like my own personal Christmas, and my favorite weekends of the year. But this Conference seems especially exciting. I’m not sure why, but I’m just a tad more stoked than usual. And, as usual, as has been my tradition for the past four years, I took the day off before Conference just so that I could feel extra ready and prepared to hear the word of the Lord this weekend.

Earlier today (or yesterday really, it’s almost 12;30AM) I got to spend the afternoon with our full time missionaries, Elder Miklich and Elder Coleman. They’re two  fine young men out serving the Lord. Then I rushed from my time with them to get ready to attend the temple this evening with the rest of my branch.

I was blessed to take a man from my branch who is in his 80’s. This man, who I am also blessed to work with as a branch missionary, is a pure delight to be around. He was recently ordained an elder, and just a couple of weeks ago went through the temple for the first time himself. I cannot explain how honored I am to be in this man’s presence and to enjoy the insights that he has into life.

As we sat down in our temple session, one of the fullest I’ve ever seen in the Birmingham Alabama Temple (extra folding chairs and everything) we enjoyed the silence of a packed room as we prepared to be fed spiritually. I looked around in the room and felt my heart literally leap in joy at seeing a wonderful handful of people who I love so dearly, and then came in Sister Holly.

Now, Sister Holly would probably not want me blogging about her on the internet. A self-appointed second mother to me, Sister Holly is an older Sister in my branch who is pretty much the greatest thing since sliced bread. Frankly, I’d rather have her in my life over sliced bread any day. But I love this woman, and the world (or at least the folks who follow my blog) deserve to know just how great this woman is.

In any case, the endowment room was filled to capacity with just a couple of seats (and folding chairs) remaining empty. I was already blessed to be sitting next to my dear friend who just received his own endowments, and then in walked Sister Holly. Radiating in her white dress, with her silver and white hair, and carrying her cane (President Hinckley Style), she slowly came into the room with a smile on her face and took a seat with those of us who were already seated. And I felt a tear run down my cheek.

I felt such pure joy to see a group of people that I love so dearly gathered together in such a holy place. And I thought to myself, “This is what the Celestial Kingdom will be like.”

Before the actual temple ceremony starts there are some words of introduction which I have always found insightful, and as I heard them again tonight in both of the sessions that I sat through they took on added meaning. The words are these:

“Brothers and Sisters, we hope you find joy in serving in the House of the Lord this day.”

Joy.

The scripture came to mind, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Nephi 2:25). In short, Adam falling and the entire Plan of Salvation was simply put into play so that you and I might have joy.

And tonight I felt that as I sat in the temple.

And I also felt it as my friend and I ate a late night dinner at the Cracker Barrel down the street from the temple. It’s hard not to find joy in a the Country Boy’s Loaded Breakfast (two pork chops?! you bet it has two!).

And I’m sure that feeling of joy will abide all weekend.

In just a few short hours you and I will be listening to a prophet’s voice. How absolutely amazing is that? To me, it is something that is remarkable beyond words.

I hope that as this Conference Weekend goes forth for all of us that we might feel some joy, and find the revelation we need as we are taught from on high to not just bring greater amounts of joy into our own personal lives, but to share that joy and the pure joy of the restored gospel with those around us each and every day.

Eternal joy will be like that feeling I had in the temple tonight as I saw Sister Holly walk in. Only it will last forever, and there will be so many more people that we love there in our presence with us.

We Don’t Even Own a Pornograph

The phonograph, first invented by Thomas Edison in 1877, was the first electronic device to deliver modern entertainment and media into homes.

This evening I spent a long time on the phone with a dear friend. Although we have not seen one another in years, we speak often on the phone and reminisce about times past.

Tonight as we were talking I could tell that my friend was struggling. His usual jovial demeanor had been replaced by a sullen sounding monotone of answers as I tried to stir up our conversation. “How’s life?” I asked.  Life was “okay”. “Did you watch the news on Tuesday night?” I prodded. He and his wife were rather sad about the results of this week’s elections. “Boy it’s getting cold here,” I had remarked. The weather where he lives is also chilly. “Excited for the NBA season to be starting?” Neither of us are expecting much out of the Utah Jazz this year.

Then, after a few minutes of idle chit chat he said out of nowhere, “I’m addicted to pornography Stan, and I don’t know how to quit.”

So much for being at a lack of things to talk about.

As a missionary I had learned that silence can be key in important conversations; so I sat on my end of the phone without offering a reaction, although if my friend had been here in person he would have seen the tears building in my eyes as I could hear him struggle to find his next words. After what must have seemed like an eternity to him, I finally asked, “Are you okay?”

And the floodgates opened. Both for my friend as he began to speak, and for myself as I wept over hearing of his struggles.

As we talked about pornography, its evils, its captive grab on much of society, and the way in which it so easily enters into our lives, I was surprised that my good friend had succumbed and allowed it to have a barbed wire grasp upon his soul.

As we talked it became evident that he does know how to “quit”, so to speak, but that its harder than anything he has ever done in his life. Most importantly, he recognizes his problem. Equally as important, his loving wife and priesthood leader know of his “thorn in [the] flesh”, and they are working together with the Lord to tackle his addiction head on.

My friend described how it all really started with one single night of television. His wife was out with some gals from their ward. He was home studying. He grew bored and turned on the television to relax from the math equations that were pressing his mind. As he was flipping through the cacophony of choices which he could see on the channel list before him, he could see the choices which were obviously inappropriate. He decided on a popular cable drama because so many people he worked with had mentioned how good it was. Although he noticed instantly that the language wasn’t exactly clean, “What could it hurt?” he had thought, and he kept watching. He enjoyed the show. The characters were engaging, the story line was compelling, and it was not only dramatic but also comedic. A perfect show to watch.

The next week when his wife went out with her friends again he decided to take a load off from studying and to watch the show for a second time.  As he settled comfortably on his sofa to watch the show he noticed the language was the same as the week before, but “it was okay” because it was just so entertaining. “Why doesn’t everyone watch this?” he’d said to himself. But when a blatant sex scene came onto the screen five minutes into the show he knew he probably shouldn’t be watching, and he flipped the television off and went back to studying.

Interestingly, that week my friend noticed a real internal conflict with himself. He wanted to watch this show. It was funny. It was interesting. It was popular. He liked it. But he also didn’t like that he’d been a witness to such a crude indecency on basic cable during early evening viewing hours. He knew it was wrong. The few seconds of flesh mingled with flesh he’d seen on his flatscreen had caused the Spirit to leave him that night. And he’d noticed that he couldn’t even concentrate on studying without inappropriate thoughts coming into his mind.

The third week in a row, as his wife went out with friends to leave him alone to study, he said he felt literally as if he were in a war. On the battlefield of his living room he sat prepared to conquer college algebra. On the coffee table were his weapons of war, a calculator and some graphing paper. And on the wall at the other end of his small apartment living room, the television. He knew he shouldn’t watch the show. He studied his book. He looked up and saw the black screen of silence facing him. Inviting him. “It was one simple sex scene,” he heard a voice keep saying within him. “It will be okay,” it continued. Then another voice opposing the first one, “You can’t afford to lose the Spirit. Your wife needs you to be clean.” The argument continued in his head and as he knelt down to pray for strength over something that seemed so simple, another thought came into his mind. Smooth as silk it seemed to say, “If you just watch the show all this struggle will go away.”

Without thinking my friend grabbed the remote, while steel kneeling at his coffee table, and turned on the television. He rapidly punched the numbers into the remote and the screen flashed. Instantly he saw it. As if perfectly timed by an evil director from the sidelines of life, my friend had tuned in at precisely the moment another sex scene was beginning. But this time, willfully drowning out the noises in his head, he watched.

That was three years ago. He says that every day has been a struggle since then.

Tonight as we talked about his daily struggles to reclaim his life, return to virtue, and try to heal his marriage, the Holy Ghost was in great abundance. He mentioned that as someone addicted to pornography he has a heightened awareness for society’s complete lack of virtue. He can look anywhere, listen to anything, and engage in any form of media and instantly be bombarded with crude images, words, and blatant sex.

I shared with him my approach to our most recent General Conference. As conference had approached I had petitioned Heavenly Father to bless me with revelation on subtle things in my life that could make a huge difference, among other things. As the weekend of General Conference came and went I was given a catalogue of personal improvement I could make in my life. One of the most subtle came the Monday after General Conference though.

As I took a break at work that day I pulled out my phone and responded to a couple of text messages. Then, with a few minutes to kill, I chose one of my favorite apps to browse through and look at funny internet pictures and memes. – The app is one I’m sure most of you could easily identify. – As I was scrolling through a particularly funny collection of Bad Luck Brian photos I noticed that nearly half were inappropriate in substance. “I can just skip those ones though,” I had said half defensively to myself. Then, as my finger scrolled on across my phone’s screen, there was a randomly placed picture of a young woman in a bikini. Her sexy pose in front of a mirror while making the peace sign was not something I had intentionally sought out, but there it was. And I confess, I was tempted to pause. The silky and inviting voice from places unknown seemed to say to my mind, “Click on it. Zoom in. Save it even. No one ever has to know.” But just in that moment of temptation another voice seemed to say, “Stan, delete this app so that you never have to stumble across pictures like this again.”

I instantly recognized the second voice as a literal answer to my previous week’s prayers, and I deleted the app from my phone before placing myself in a place of temptation again.

“It’s funny how subtle the devil is,” my friend said as I ended my story.

“Yes. He doesn’t want us to even notice when we’re slipping,” I responded.

Then, since I was already sitting in front of my computer as we spoke, I asked my friend if I could share another brief story with him. He consented, and I prefaced what I was about to read by telling him that this was a story from Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone in the October 1999 General Conference. I read Elder Featherstone’s words,

“Pornography is evil. I love the story told at the funeral of Henry Eyring’s father. When he was a young man coming across the border from the Mexican colonies to the United States, the customs man said, “Son, do you have any pornography in your suitcase or trunks?” He responded, “No sir, we don’t even own a pornograph.” It’s wonderful to be that pure and naive. We know pornography is addictive and destructive. It has companions it travels with: drinking, smoking, and drugs. It uses some types of music, dancing, the Internet, and television. Those who produce it are godless and have no conscience. They know the consequences, but they don’t care. Like those who peddle drugs, they will never be around to pick up the pieces when you’re all broken up. But we will—your parents, bishops, and leaders.”

I added, “And the Lord too.”

And then, as is far too common, I began what I’ve come to call a short Stan Sermonette. I told my friend how I am jealous of President Eyring’s father for having grown up in such a time as to have not been exposed to pornography in his youth. I bore testimony of the power of the Atonement in my friends life. I bore testimony of the Lord’s love for him, and also my love for him. And I invited him to rid him self of the pornographs in his life. Cable, internet, his smart phone, whatever it is that might deliver pornography into his life. “Because,” I said as I ended my soap box preaching on the phone, “nothing is more important than your soul.”

Then there was silence again.

This time we were both crying.

As the silence and sniffles slowly passed he said, “That was exactly what my bishop said last night, and I’ve been struggling with it all day.”

“Your bishop told you to get rid of your pornograph?” I asked light heartedly, trying to not come off so overbearing.

“No. But you know what I mean.”

He then told me that our conversation would make a great blog post. I explained that I usually don’t share such personal experiences of those close to me. He told me to at least consider it.

After some consideration, here is our conversation for the world to see.

We all have weaknesses in our lives. For some it is pornography. For some it is overeating. Others struggle financially and with the principle of tithing. Many battle daily Word of Wisdom challenges. And some, like myself, battle the weakness that is their tongue and saying what they aught naught.

Whatever it is though, I invite you as your friend and fellow sojourner through this experience we call life, to get rids of your pornographs, or whatever it is that might be contributing to your vice. I invite you to listen more carefully to the promptings from the Holy Ghost and to rid your lives of unholiness. And I promise that as you do so your life will be more fulfilling and happier in every way imaginable.

No weakness we have or shortcoming we struggle with is beyond the scope and cleansing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Tonight a dear friend of mine will be discussing with his wife how he wants to trade in his iPhone for a flip phone.

I invite you to identify your own personal pornograph and get rid of it also, because nothing is more important than your soul.

You’ll be glad you did.

Stan Way

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The Idols In Our Lives

Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Fall Saturdays in Alabama have always been a sacred day for me and millions of others. Saturdays were the days on which I could watch the Alabama Crimson Tide come onto the field and literally roll over their opponents with skill and force.

I used to never miss a game. If I was working, that meant the game was on somewhere at work via a laptop or radio. If I was off, I was usually gathered with a group of friends around a television screaming and hollering like coach Nick Saban could actually hear the directions we were giving him. As half-chewed pretzels came spewing out of our mouths we would pump throw our hands into the air and yell, “Time out already!”. As the opposing team gained yards it wouldn’t be uncommon to hear us screaming things such as, “Get him, get him, GET HIM AND BREAK HIS LEGS!!!” And after each victory, which have always been many, me and my compatriots during the game would proudly put our arms over one another’s shoulders, sway, and proudly sing Rammer Jammer.

Normal, calm, Alabama Football fans.

Even today if you were to call my cellphone you would hear a ringback tone of a hillbilly shouting in a cheering stadium, “You’ve just called the world’s greatest Alabama Football fan. Hold on a minute and he’ll answer the phone.” As the ringback tone continues you hear the cheering crowd get louder and the Alabama fight song, “Hey Alabama”, playing triumphantly in the background.

Alabamians are devout followers of the faith of the Crimson Tide. During games the streets across the state become empty. Smaller businesses close. And yes, even Walmarts empty out. That’s how serious we take our team. We gather in groups large and small, donning our dark shades of crimson, and watch on television with rapt attention.

True followers will go to the Mecca of the faith though, Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. With 157 skyboxes, four large video scoreboards, and a general seating capacity of 101,821, it is the temple of worship of the Alabama faithful. It is the house that Paul “Bear” Bryant built, and to walk there is to walk on hallowed ground.

Over the years I’ve learned just how serious this faith can be to some.

I’ve heard testimonies shared in Fast and Testimony Meetings about how God blessed certain players. I’ve likewise heard testimonies about how Heavenly Father “must really feel” towards Auburn University and their wicked ways. I’ve been to numerous priesthood leadership and stake priesthood meetings where one or more of the brethren in the congregation would have earbuds running up the sides of their head so they could hear the play-by-play action of a game, while at the same time receiving directions from leaders holding priesthood keys. I’ve even seen those sad occasions when General Conference Priesthood Sessions would fall at the same time as Alabama Football games. The parking lot at my chapel perhaps has never looked more deserted than during those games.

Even among God’s covenant people, the faith of Alabama Football at times ranks supreme.

A few weeks ago I was discussing with one of our full-time missionaries the fact that he would soon be returning home from his mission. We talked about work, schooling, and a variety of things. Eventually the conversation focused on living a consecrated life and how we as holders of the priesthood can live in such a manner. We discussed how we, even as Latter-day Saints, often let the things of the world get in the way of our spiritual progression. And yes, we ended up talking about Alabama Football.

This season I haven’t watched a single game.

To many Alabama Fans that means I wasn’t a real fan in the beginning. I wasn’t fully converted they would say. And perhaps they would be right.

But I’ve got a lot going on in my life. I have a full-time job. I am in the process of becoming a published author. My family takes up a great deal of my time (as they should). I serve as the branch mission leader in my tiny church unit. And this week I made some silly decision to try to get married. So I’m never out of things to do! In fact, each day I wish I had six more hours to accomplish the things I wanted to do.

In the future I plan on raising my children in the faith of Alabama Football, and spending good time fellowshipping them into the Order of the National Championships. My sons and I will spend Saturdays watching plays, passes, and punts with millions of other fans. However, right now my attention is needed elsewhere in life. And when the time comes to raise my family watching Big Al jump around the stadium, I hope I can teach them that although football is great, it should never take precedence over the more important things in life.

As the elder (who has since returned home) and I spoke a few weeks ago we spoke of the cars, the televisions, the unnecessarily large homes, and even the gadgets that many Latter-day Saints own. We spoke of debt, living within one’s own means, and how many worship daily on the screens of their iPads before they ever lay their hands upon scriptures.

There are idols in the world today. They are not graven like the idols of old. I’m sure I wouldn’t find any golden calves set up for worship and with burning incense in any Latter-day Saint household. But there are many things which we have set up to replace God in our lives. There are the brand new cars with the five year loans just so we can afford them. There is furniture that just had to be bought when a more modest couch would have done. There are cell phone plans which milk the monthly budget for all it’s worth, and there are a litany of other toys that demand our attention each day. These idols are casual, and barely noticeable, because it’s hard to look at an iPod and consider it as a God in and of itself. Satan knows we would never turn our hearts to outwardly worship another deity from the heavens; so he uses many of the good things that are already in the world to turn our attention away from the heavens.

Do you work late nights and extra hours to pay for things you couldn’t afford in the first place? Do you spend more time watching DVR’d television shows than you do home or visiting teaching, or spending quality time with your family? They’re deep and personal questions, but much like those asked by Alma to the Saints in Zarahemla, they are easy enough to answer and true measurements of our faith.

Today as the Crimson Tide played I was blowing leaves in my parent’s yard. For a little over six hours I got to enjoy the hum of the leafblower, the strain of walking up and down a slanted Alabama hillside, and raking until I thought I would have blisters on my hands. The hours passed quickly though, and I completely forgot about football as I got to listen again to each of last Saturday’s General Conference Sessions. I am sure I missed some great plays, some great commentary, and even some great pretzels. But today I got to give service to those that I love and I got to listen to prophets, apostles, and other bear testimony of the one true and living God. – There’s nothing better than that.

We all have idols in our lives. But thanks to an insightful conversation with a soon to be released missionary a few weeks ago, I’ve been blessed to cut one of the larger ones out of my own personal life.

I know that by the power of the Spirit the idols in your life will be made manifest to you, and I pray that you might readily release them so as to enjoy even greater blessings in your life.

It’s worth it.

Now I guess I just need to change my ringback tone…

Your pal,

Stan

On Being Alone

Sometimes we all feel alone.

It’s Friday night, almost 9PM, and I’ve been wishing I were asleep for the past three hours.

Yes my friends, that is my epically eventful Friday night.

I’ll give it a moment for it to sink in for you. Y’know, so you can get jealous and everything.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

Okay, now that you’re in deep envy of my night, I shall procede.

My comments a couple of night ago about wanting to get married brought an interesting couple of days for me.

Y’see, I can follow the traffic on my blog. I can see how many people look at it, where they click, and a host of other super-cyber-stalky things. (Yeah, more reasons to be jealous of me…) I’ve always been curious, “Who are these readers?” And what has always made me more curiouser (yes, I’m using that word) is that nobody ever seems to comment. Cyber visitors come from near and far, by the dozens and sometimes even hundreds each day. They come in for a good visit, read a variety of things on my site, then after having used me like a Taco Bell napkin, they move on in their cyber journeys without so much as even saying a word of “Howdy”, or to leave a “You are a terrible speller” comment.

I’ve come to find some of my readers though.

Some Facebook messaged me. A couple of them (who I personally know) texted me with words of wisdom. I had great conversations with friends and family from Miami to Seattle, and Saginaw to San Antonio. Some random guy from Vermont (Hey Kevin!) even emailed my blog’s email address just to say that he felt like it was time to get married too. My readers, for the most part, seem to be young folks like me. The Young Single Adults of the Church who have stumbled upon some random ramblings from their fellow sojourner in life. Kevin for instance is a returned missionary. He’s temple worthy. The couple of emails we’ve exchanged have made him seem like a great guy (and a terrific speller!). But he can’t seem to find a young lady with whom he can share a zeal for the Gospel with. He (like myself) watched General Conference with the hopes last weekend that some random YSA girl might stumble into his chapel and it would be love at first site.

Kevin and I both sat through ten hours of sermons and no such ladies appeared.

So much for crazy wishes…

I’ve come to realize I’m not alone in this quest for love and marriage though.

Yes, I’m the only active YSA guy in a fifty mile radius, but I’m not alone.

And yes, it is Friday night and I’m whining about being alone. But once again, I’m not alone.

Y’see, I have the Lord. And He provided a great comfort for me on the nights like this when my options are to hang out with my “friends” at a local (hillbilly) bar or sit at home and read an old book.

I imagine I’m going to be putting a lot of miles on my ol’ car Jamarcus (yes, that’s his name; don’t make fun, it hurts his feelings) if I am going to be getting married, because first I have to find this gal. Or recognize who this gal is if I already know her. Or maybe I’ll need to walk to Canada, Guatemala, and Machu Picchu before I find her. I’m up for the exercise. But who really knows how it’ll all come about?

Perhaps only the Lord.

But tonight, because I know she’s out there, I chose to stay at home and keep myself worthy for the day when I get to take her to the temple. Perhaps she’ll even dream a little dream of me tonight…

And that alone makes me feel not so alone.

I hope wherever you are you’re having a terrific Friday night.

I’m going to go finish my book.

Stan

More ramblings about dating from me.

That Silly Holy Ghost…

This is going to be kind of personal. So beware, if you’re not in the mood for sappy whatnot, I recommend you click elsewhere online.

So here it goes…

The Holy Ghost testifies of truth and guides us into all truth (John 16:13). That’s pretty simple. We can all understand that. And I’ve always appreciated that.

As a missionary I loved when Preach My Gospel was released and in the second line of the first principle of the first lesson there was this nugget of gospel doctrine gold:

“[God] has a body of flesh and bone that is glorified and perfected.”

Now to the rest of Christendom that might sound crazy. In fact, most people when they hear that and understand what was being said will throw up a barrier and want to discuss the Trinity at great lengths. However, to the pure in heart, those prepared to enter into the House of Israel, that is truth. And the Lord has prepared His missionaries’ manual to start off right from the get-go to weed out the pure in heart from the not pure in heart. – It’s a beautiful thing! – Because that way missionaries can find out in their first teaching interaction with someone whether or not they are ready or receptive to recognizing pure spiritual truth.

I digress though…

The Holy Ghost testifies of truth, and this past weekend with General Conference was like having Truth Bomb after Truth Bomb exploding in a spiritual sense all around me. – “Get more converted!” “Prepare to raise your children right!” Feed my sheep!” – The Lord and His servants did a wonderful job at teaching and edifying us at General Conference. The Spirit was in great abundance.

As Sunday ended and Monday began I was blessed to enjoy a day of reflection and reviewed much of what I had heard in my head. From Elder Cook’s stirring call to repentance to President Monson’s final invitations to be better, there had been many great things said. But Elder Richard G. Scott’s words kept coming to mind. More specifically, Elder Scott’s reference to his “beloved wife” Jeanene…

Now any casual observer of Elder Scott’s recent conference addresses would soon find a theme. That theme being: Elder Scott loves his wife.

And not just a little bit. But a lot. Like a whole lot. Like an “oh my goodness he’s like a teenage boy in love” kind of a lot.

I admire that. I hope and pray that one day I might have that. Every marriage should be so blessed.

Even though there weren’t the typical calls to the Young Single Adults of the Church to get married this past weekend, I’ve felt the Spirit speaking to me rather strongly in the realm of the “beloved wife” kind of business. Perhaps Elder Scott’s fleeting reference to his eternal companion have prompted the promptings. Or perhaps I’m going crazy. But either way they’ve been constant.

“Get married Stan.”

The thought has popped into my head incessantly all week.

“What?!” I thought to myself the first few times the impression came. “Silly thoughts,” I would think, and I would move onto to thinking of something else…

A few moments later…

“Get married Stan.”

“Umm, there’s not really any young ladies in my neck of the woods,” I heard myself saying defensively to the spiritual nudgings occurring within my own head.

“Put yourself where you can get married Stan.”

Then I would throw my hands up in silent exasperation as if to argue with the silence anyone else would have saw and heard.

I would go on ignoring the thoughts I heard so emphatically, only a few minutes later to hear,

“Get married Stan.”

My eyebrows would furrow in frustration.

“And how am I supposed to just do that?” I could hear my own self saying.

“You’ll know what to do…Get married Stan,” the impression has said matter of factly.

Perhaps it hasn’t been just Elder Scott’s fine example of being such a rockstar husband apostle that have prompted these promptings though.

As we left the church Saturday afternoon, each to go to find some sort of lunch to partake of, my branch president followed me to my car. As his car full of folks was waiting on him to go and grab some grub he stood in the church’s parking lot with me to encourage me to “take the next step in life”. Sunday evening one of our missionaries tried to use the commitment pattern, promising blessings and all, if I would commit to finding a wife. In the past few months I’ve knelt in prayer with various brethren who have all been my priesthood leaders, and each time I’ve heard them invoke the blessings of heaven upon my efforts to find an eternal companion.

But this week I’ve heard the resounding message loud and clear.

It’s not that I’m a sinner. It’s not like I am trying to not get married. In fact, I have gone out of my way to try to settle down and stop being a menace to Mormon society (as good Brother Brigham would say). But I’m abundantly cautious.

But that silly Holy Ghost just has a way touching folks. He teaches truth. He testifies of truth. He guides us unto all truth…

“Get married Stan.”

So, dear future wife wherever you might be, just know that I’m looking for you, praying for you, and striving each day to be the best man I can be for you and our future family.

It looks like I have some repenting to do, and obviously some searching to do too…

– Stan

President Monson kisses Sister Monson while entering a session of General Conference. – How can that not inspire someone to want to get married?

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