Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Behold Your Little Ones

Two days ago my daughter, Brianna Ruth McGee, was born at 2:00 pm. That night Catie and I were reading 3 Nephi 17 where Christ is visiting the people in America. He tells them that they are pretty tired and need to go home and ponder what he's taught. But, all the people start to cry and beg him to stay. He ends up staying and heals all the sick and afflicted. Then, he tells them to bring their children and says, "Behold your little ones" as angels descend and administer to the children.

I've always been amazed at what they could have missed if they had just accepted what he said and went home. Then, I thought about how often that is what I do at church, general conference, or some other church event, even the temple sometimes. During an event that should be an amazingly spiritual, enlightening experience, I'm looking at the clock wondering when this will be over even pondering what I'm going to have for dinner. These guys weren't doing that, rather they were saying "I want more. Please don't send us home yet."

Then, when you juxtapose that with his statement "Behold your little ones" what effect do these two attitudes have on our children? Well, we can see what happened to their children. For a hundred years, they were completely righteous.

Back to the topic of beholding your little ones, I've often heard people say or at least have the philosophy that children should be seen and not heard. I am pretty sure that's not what christ meant when he said "Behold your little ones." I think he's actually commanding us to pay attention and notice our children. Sometimes it's hard to remember that though. I get so busy with all the things I have to do that I often forget to focus on the person that really matters.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

With All the Feelings of a Tender Parent

In 1 Nephie 8, Lehi tells his family of his dream about a tree of life, iron rod, and large and spacious building that has no foundation. In summary. Lehi sees half of his family partaking of the fruit, but two of his sons, Laman and Lemuel, refuse to listen to their father and come to the tree.

When Lehi finishes retelling his dream, he begins to "exhort" his sons to keep the commandments. Nephi, "the perfect child," who is telling this story says, "He did exhort them with all the feelings of a tender parent."

As I've been thinking about this, what would Laman and Lemuel have said about this if they had been the ones writing it. My guess based on what happens later in the story (they try to kill both their dad and Nephi) is that they would have probably said something like this:
"We're camping because our dad's a lunatic and the people in Jerusalem want to kill him. Then, he sends us back to get a stupid book that nearly gets us killed twice and costs us out entire savings. Well, we get back with these super hot girls and what does he do? He tells this crazy dream about a tree. Everything relies on his family getting to the tree but according to him we refuse to go to this stupid tree. Then, he tells us that we are horrible children because we won't come to the tree in his dream. Hello, it was only a dream! Anyway, in front of everyone he reprimands us saying that we need to be better children. I can't believe he could be so embarrassing."

How often do we respond as I assume Laman and Lemuel did to someone who is giving us counsel and warning? For example, I've heard people say things about the prophet when he gives some new counsel or repeats old , as keeping the sabbath day holy, homosexuality is a sin, and you should not tatoo your body, "He's old and out of touch with society." or "He doesn't have the right to tell me what to do with my body." or "That's just counsel, it doesn't really matter."

As a parent/adult I understand lehi a little better. One of the hardest things we have to do in this life is watch as people make mistakes. Luckily my son is only four and his mistakes so far only involve skinned knees.

I can see as lehi warns his two struggling children with all of his feelings-pleading with them to listen. I can also see laman and Lemuel rolling their eyes, ignoring their dad-because afterall what does he know?

In the end nephi writes, "he did cease speaking unto them." we can exhort, expound, plead, even beg that our children (or whoever) will do what we feel/believe/know is best, but eventually we will need to cease speaking and let them make their own decisions- even if that invloves watching them suffer.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Strongest Man

Walking with you as a child
My hand grasping your finger
I knew nothing could harm me
For I was with the strongest Man

You let me climb the roof
A windstorm shook my frame
I knew that I was safe;
Below me stood the strongest man

You held me on your shoulders
Giving me a new perspective
Seven feet above the world
Carried by the strongest man

Danger was in our house
Slipper in hand, ready to attack
You realized it was only your kids
But we saw it was the strongest man

With a pencil behind our ears
We prepared to work
I was your shadow
Taught by the strongest man

I got in an argument
You came to my rescue
As we drove and talked
In the arms of the strongest man

I needed a ride
Without a thought for yourself
You waited so that I could be
Driven by the strongest man

The audience frightened me
I wanted to run and cry
Then, I saw your loving smile
Encouraged by the strongest man

You had 10 children
Friends criticized your family
Enraged as a father, criticism ceased
Condemned by the strongest man

Your daughters combed your hair
Dressing you like a princess
You always had time for us to
Play with the strongest man

Our house was broken
You came with brand new tools
Our house was repaired
At the hands of the strongest man

You cradled my child in your arms
Tears streaming down your mustache
As he looked into the eyes of his Pop
Protected by the strongest man

As a child, I looked up to you
As you taught me wisdom
I knew you would always be taller
Watched by the strongest man

As we watched you in the hospital
Struggling in pain, seeking our comfort
We saw you as invincible
Because you were the strongest man

I was always first in your life
I knew that I would always be
Loved by the Strongest Man
Loved by the Strongest Man

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Randy Holladay

Dear Randy,

I started dating your daughter while you were living in New Mexico. All I heard from her was what a great guy you were. You were her protector. She told me how you would take her on dates when she was having a really challenging day.

Then, I met you. We decided to visit your family during a school break, and I had decided to ask for your permission to marry your beautiful Catie. When we arrived in New Mexico it was dark. You were waiting for us at a gas station. Then, you got out of the car. I wanted to turn around and go home. Catie had told me you were tall, but she never told me you were a giant. You could smash me with one hand. How could I ask you to take one of the most precious things to your heart? Catie asked me to ride in the front seat with you. I wanted to say, "Um, that's ok, I'll ride with Jesse." But, I didn't. As I clung to the door, you proceeded to describe the road to your house.

While I thought you were a giant in size, I soon learned that you were a giant of a man. You agreed to let me marry your daughter if she so desired even after I kicked over your soda, dumped chocolate milk down your piano, and spilled my glass of water all over the restaurant table as I was asking for permission. I could see the love you had for your children.

At our wedding, you gave us a toilet paper roller as a present because you were told the one in our apartment was too far away to reach. You also gave me a starter tool kit, which you expanded throughout the years. You cried during the reception as you danced with my beautiful wife, your sweet daughter.

After our wedding, our relationship was somewhat distance due to the physical distance of several hundred miles. However, you were always there for us despite the distance. When my brother died, you dropped everything to come for my wife and me. Shortly, after that you moved your family back to Utah so that you could be closer to family. Your children are always first in your life. In fact, now that I think about it, you always placed your family ahead of anything.

After you moved to Utah, you were a tremendous help to all of us. I was even a little jealous because if we ever needed something fixed around our house or apartment, Catie would call and ask you to help us fix it. But you were always there either to offer your advice or to try to fix the problem. I often got frustrated because I wanted to do it the quick, cheap way while you were concerned about doing it the correct, fixed way. After I tried my way, we ended up doing it your way anyway and it worked. You were always willing to give of yourself for us. You would rearrange your schedule so that you could help fix out house or give Catie a ride somewhere or help us move. If I ever wanted a new tool, I could always tell you something was broken that required that tool. Every time you came to fix something or I told you something needed to be fixed, you always bought the tool or set of tools that were required and they always remained when you left.

In addition to helping us, you were always there for your other children. Sometimes I think we asked so much of you. Every time we called you doing something for one your children or your spouse, such as giving them a ride or fixing a washer and dryer.

Even in the end, you were more worried about others. While you were in the hospital, you were concerned about those visiting you whether they had somewhere to sit or something to eat. You were so frustrated when you were the one who needed help. I could see your frustration and wished that I could help.

Although you started as a scary man who I was sure would hate me for taking away your daughter, I have grown to love you. You made our lives so much easier. As a father-in-law, you became my father. I'm going to miss you Pop. I'll try to take care of your daughter in a way that would please. I hope that we can all remember your example and give as much you gave.

your son

Randy Holladay, my father-in-law, known as Pop, died yesterday, April 7 around 10:00 from pancreatic cancer.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Conference Thoughts- Sat Morning

Today was general conference, which is a time for the Prophet of God and the apostles to speak to the world. I've decided to post some of my thoughts based off of my notes. We'll see. Please note that these are my notes so they may be quotes, indirect quotes, paraphrases, or misheard statements (if they're misheard or misinterpreted please comment and let me know).

President Monson
"Reach out to new members and those seeking to come back to church." I remember that during my mission this was a large focus for President Hinckley as well. Every new convert needs a calling, a friend, and nourishment from the word of God. This is so important. I saw it on my and I've seen it at home, especially within my wife's family.

Catie has told me that as a new convert you have so much attention and the spirit is so strong, but after you have been baptized for a while, it doesn't feel as strong anymore and the members begin to see you as another part of family who just belongs so you don't need the extra attention anymore. I personally think that part of that is the Lord is going to try you to see if you really want to do this for him and not for the attention. We had a really when we moved into the Bridgerland Park 2nd ward. We had just come from an amazing ward where I was the ward mission leader, we had a new baby, and Catie was still considered a new convert, so we got lots of attention. Then, we moved to the 2nd ward and it seemed as if we were just forgotten. In fact, we moved in the same time as my brother who only went to church once before they moved back into my parents. The ward confused us with them for several month (I think they even moved the wrong records). Catie wanted to attend the student ward, she hated it so bad. About a year later, Catie was called to the primary presidency. She started loving the ward, so of course we had to move away. If you look on her facebook and blog, you'll see that a majority of her friends came from that ward.

I know the Lord is going to try us to see how much we really love Him and want to do what he wants us to do. But as President Monson, this is the time they need us to reach out that hand of fellowship. Perhaps, it's not even the new convert who is needed that extra strength.

President Packer

"Gideon was chosen to lead 3000 men but ended up taking 300 to fight a battle again a lot of people (sorry don't remember the exact numbers and don't want to look it up right now)"

"We have positive feelings about what lies ahead. Gideon's men succeeded because they stood every man in his place."

Sometimes we look at our challenges and enemies and think there is no way I can do this. It's too hard or perhaps we are just too lazy. I realized recently as I was thinking back to my childhood that I have a tendency to be a quitter. In kindergarten, I started playing soccer. I think it was the first practice, the coach threw the ball at me. It hit me in the stomach and knocked the wind out of me, so I quit. I took piano lessons, didn't want to practice, so I quit. I took Karate (as the neighborhood bullied, or so I thought, I wanted something to defend myself), the other kids were throwing apples after practice. When one hit me in the eye, I decided to quit. Of course, I also hid in he bathroom whenever the teacher had one-on-one combats. Basketball, football, anything that was a little hard, I quit. I wish someone would have taken me aside and explained that I could do this. It might be painful as you are going through the experience, but with God's help you will be able to do it and will be a better person because you have endured through something.

"The father presides in the home even if a church leader is present." He then tells a story about a boy who had asked someone to ordain him prior to his mission. President Packer saw his father and suggested (commanded) that his father should give him the blessing. The father and son embraced for the first time and the father said, "I didn't get to ordain my other boys."

I think it's interesting how important of a role fathers have. In church, if someone with higher authority (stake president, apostle...) attends sacrament, they preside instead of the bishop. But in the home there is no higher authority than they father even if he does not hold the priesthood.

I wish I had known how important the role of a father was when I was younger. When I turned eight, my mom suggested that I could choose who I wanted to baptize me. I thought it was like picking someone to drive me to school or something. We had just visited my uncle in California and I thought he was a pretty cool guy because he did science experiments (FYI- I don't even like science now), so I chose him. He said he couldn't. My mom suggested that I could have my dad do it, but the idea was already in my head that I could have someone else besides this guy who lived with me and punished me for throwing rocks at cars. So, I called my other uncle who was happy to do it for me. Can you imagine how my dad felt? He didn't even get to baptize his oldest son not because he was unworthy, but because I chose his younger brother simply because of the novelty. I vaguely remember going in to get dressed; I asked my dad if he was going to change as well, but he said no because he wasn't performing the ordinance. I've regretted this decision ever since I realized how important the father's role is.

"Authority comes from ordination. Power in the priesthood comes from righteousness." A while back, I was placed in an interesting circumstance where I was asked to help administer a healing blessing. I knew the other elder had not attended church for several months and had heard he was even attended another denomination. I was not sure how to respond to this request,He did have the priesthood and even had a current temple recommend. Obviously, I was not this elder's bishop so I couldn't tell him he was not worthy. I decided to proceed with the blessing on that reasoning. I did feel the spirit as I placed my hands upon the sick, but it has still bothered me a little. I've also wondered, when are you unworthy to perform priesthood ordinances? If you stop paying your tithing, you can't have a temple recommend. Does that also make you unworthy to perform blessings through the priesthood? I assume from President Packer's story about the inactive father that it does not. For he even said "luckily, he was an elder. but that could've been taken care of if he was not."

Sister Beck
"A woman (or man) can have the comfort from the spirit when dealing with an unruly child, but if you lose your temper with your children, you lose the spirit." Unfortunately, this weekend, as with many weekends, I lost my temper with my son. I was completing our taxes when suddenly, the screen went blank. He had climbed under the computer to turn the power switch off. I obviously yelled at him and sent him to his room. A few minutes later, I called him down and asked why he did that. He said, "I thought it would be funny, but it was not." I felt bad and the spirit was gone not because of this trick, but because a tyrannical father who lost his patience.

Keith B. McMullin
I like the story he told of the concentration camp victim who had a sister killed. Years later, he was approached by one of the guards of the camp. [My wife thought the guard had actually killed the sister, but as told here it was a guard of the camp.] He had converted to Christianity and seeking for God's forgiveness. He struck out his hand and said, "Will you forgive me." The boy said that it felt like ages as he was asked to do the hardest thing he had ever been asked to do. He said a prayer, "I can lift my hand, you provide the feeling." He proceeded to receive the forgiveness he needed for this man. I had the thought "How can I harbor feelings over a few harsh words (especially when most are not meant to be malicious) or an inconsequently act of neglect or pain when this person was required and able to forgive such a horrific crime?

Elder Andersen
"As I read notes of the pioneers leaving Nauvoo, they were not filled with discouragement. They were homeless, but not hopeless [I added or helpless].... Hope, happiness, and joy are not product of circumstances, but of faith in Christ." I so often say something like, "when I get [fill in the blank, usually something to do with a job or money] then I'll be happy or be able to have peace. Elder Andersen makes it pretty clear here that that's not the case. We can be happy or at least have joy regardless of our circumstances if we will but trust in Christ. The pioneers had a lot to be scared, angry, and depressed about. They had been driven from three states, were leaving their beautiful home once again, and their prophet had been murdered. Yet, they put their trust in God and followed where he wanted them to go. They even sang as they did or so an annoyingly repetitive primary song would have you believe. "Pioneer children sang as they walked and walked and walked and walked . . ."

We can look at what the Lord or the world gives us and say, "This suck! I hate my life. blah blah blah." and choose to make ourselves and our loved ones miserable. Or we can look at what the Lord or the world gives us and say, "What can I learn from this? How can I turn this into an advantage for me or for someone? or Lord, this is hard, please help me." and then listen and know that he will. He may not remove the trial, but will make the burden light at least.

Elder Ballard
"Love your mother and be patient with her imperfections" I know my wife and I both struggle with this. It's difficult because my mom will say whatever she thinks without thinking no matter how hurting the sentence. My wife takes what my mom says to heart and often assumes that many of these things she says or implies is intended to be a personal insult. My parents' adoption of these kids make it even harder because our parenting techniques are so different. It's really quite interesting to watch because I was raised by these guys but we're completely different (other than that incident I described above that seems to be an inherited/learned trait I've carried over). In addition, I have a hard time with the way my mom treats my dad and her money management. But I think Elder Ballard is right. I just need to love her and be patient with her imperfections.

President Eyring
"Our Heavenly Father needs our help to bring [I wrote] our children back to him. . . Rescue those who have been led away into sorrow. The most important place is in the family--parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters. . ." He told a story about his child who decided to walk home, but soon found that he did not know the way. He ventured off the path to pray where he was met by a young couple who proceeded to rescue him. President Eyring was grateful to these two rescuers. I liked this talk, but it's 1:00 in the morning and I only finished typing the first session. The other two were just as good. I recommend watching a rebroadcast if you haven't seen it at

Monday, March 15, 2010

Zeniff: walking in the shoes of his enemies

Zeniff seems to be an interesting, tender-hearted, understanding person. At first he sets out with an army to destroy the lamanites, his fierce enemies. But after spying on them he discovers they have some good qualities so he fights his own people to defend these people he doesn't know.

He eventually makes a deal with the king of these people to bring a few of his people and settle in the land with the lamanites. A few years go by and the lamanites, these people he protected, attack in an attempt to enslave zeniffs people.

After defeating the lamanites, he sends spies out to watch their enemies. They discover that the next king is also sending an army. In the middle Of describing the preparation for this next battle, zeniff begins to make excuses for the lamanites. They are only doing this because this is how they were taught. They were taught that their parents had been robbed and were driven out of the land. Essentially, it seems as of zeniff is asking "what would I do if I had been taught those things. I think I can understand where they are coming from."

of course it doesn't excuse their actions for in the very next verse he says, "I did stimulate them (his army) to go to battle." I'm not sure how well that worked for him telling his people "now these people we're fighting aren't so bad. They just have a misunderstandinding. Let's go get them!" but I guess it worked out cause they won again.

I think zeniff has a lot to teach us concerning how we should respond when someone offends us. I would assume being attacked and having over 200 of your friends and family killed would be somewhat offensiv. Zeniff doesn't respond as his former commander did and say, "we must kill every last one of these infidels. They're all evil and I will personally see they go to hell." instead he says, "why? What makes them so angry." and he truly tries to understand them. Sometimes we get offended over the smallest sliver and will not let it go. We have to continually push that sliver deeper and deeper as we complain about what a horrible person that was giving us a sliver.

Of course sometimes the problem must be resolved. Zeniff couldn't let the lamanites Destroy his people. But he also didn't spend the remainder of his days festering over their injustice. In fact he just seem to go back to life and forgets the whole event "we returned to our land, and my people went back to tending flocks."

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, March 5, 2010

The poorest spot of land and What could I have done more?

I just finished reading Jacob chapter 5 again. I've always read this chapter by applying the world history context; today, I realized some things I'd never thought about before. I'm not sure the thoughts have completely formed, but I will do my best.

For anyone unfamiliar with Jacob chapter 5 from the book of Mormon is an allegory about the Lord's dealings with Israel and the world explained as a vineyardman (don't know the correct term) who with his servant is doing everything he can to save the fruit (us) before the final harvest.

After working hard to place his trees in the right soil and letting mother nature run her course, he returns with his servant to inspect the trees. His servant is baffled by how the lord planted his fruit because he planted the tree in the worst spot of ground. The lord explains that he worked hard to make sure the tree would be good and it did bring forth good fruit. Then they look at a tree that was planted in good soil and only part of it yielded good fruit.

I thought about how this relates to my work life and realized that it doesn't matter how prestigeous the position or where the location is if you are willing to hard at bringing forth good fruit, you can still be successful. When I worked at mcdonalds people would ask where I worked. I would tell them and get the most pitied looks. However, despite my dread of the place after my mission, it gave me a lot of experience and provided me with a pretty good resume. But some people, even those who were managers walked away with nothing because they weren't willing to put in the effort. To them, it was a job that would get them through college or pay their next rent check.

Now, returning to the allegory-after a "long time" goes by the lord returns to his vineyard to find that some of his trees have gone bad yielding rotten fruit. He cries to his servant "what could I have done more?" remember although the story is about the lord of the vineyard it represents the lord of the world. He's then explains that he's done everything he could. But the servant petitions him to give it one more go. He does and ends up finding more he could do to help his poor trees.

Besides the somewhat obvious spiritual application (the lord is going to give us as many chances as he can), this part is signifant to me as a writer. I'll do all I can to get the first draft correct, then after it comes back I'll see several errors I didn't notice whether someone else caught it or not. Even after it has been reviewed by over ten people, proofreader by me several times, and released, I'll still find errors in my work the next time I open the document. (note: this text doesn't count because I'm writing it on my iPhone and these tiny buttons can really be a pain to manipulate just to correct a punctuation or grammar error).

Whether it's writing or some other task, i'm often tempted to say "well, I've done everything I can do. I'm done." of course when that deadline comes around you have to say that, but I think this illustrates that there is always more that can be done. Sometimes we have to turn to others and say, "any ideas what I could do?" but with a little enginuity and a lot more work, you can take something you think is perfect and improve it.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone