Monday, October 31, 2011

#13: Why I am a wimp at Halloween (thanks, dad).

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There are many things that I love about Halloween (Kit Kats and Milky Ways, dressing up like "Randy the Redneck", and seeing the cute costumes of little kids who come Trick-or-Treating at my house).  However, when it comes to the scary parts of Halloween, I am a total wimp.  Now, don't get me wrong--I wasn't always a wimp.  In fact, when I was a little kid I was tough as nails.  I would usually dress up as a monster, zombie, or bunny with an axe (I was a weird 9-year old).  But then, when I was 12-years old, everything changed....


My sister Amy and I as vampires (the NON-sparkly kind)
Straight-A Student for sure
Um...I honestly have no explanation for this
During Halloween as a 12-year old, my parents and I were watching a made-for-TV remake of a movie called "The Shining" on Channel 4.  I had never heard of "The Shining", and since we wanted to watch a fun Halloween movie, my parents and I decided to watch it.  Well, as you may or may not know, the dad in the movie goes crazy and tries to kill his family with a croquet mallet.  I was terrified.


But, regardless of my fear, I still had to go get ready for bed after the movie ended.  I took the long, dark trek up two flights of stairs and hopped in the shower for a quick shower before going to bed.  When I got out of the shower, I put a towel around my waist and opened the bathroom door to walk to my room.  As I opened the door, my dad jumped into the hallway with a croquet mallet and started screaming like a crazy murderous lunatic.  I cried.  But at least I kept my towel on. Thanks dad. Sure do love ya. ;)  


I have worn safe, non-scary costumes ever since, including the following:


Clark Kent (me) and Superman (my little bro, Matthew)
Gilligan
Mario (my friend Chad Ludwig) and Luigi (me)
Kipp Dynamite 
Clark Kent....again (I like to recycle) with Lois Lane (Diane) and Krypto (Diesel)
Last but not least, Randy the Redneck (me) and his wife/cousin Thelma (Diane)
Until next year, Happy Halloween!  Oh, and watch out for croquet mallets.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

#12: Paul the Apostle, Alma the Younger, and Darth Vader.

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I love stories of redemption.  Stories of redemption are a testament to the fact that people really can change.  It is always satisfying to see someone who is evil, cruel, or selfish make a complete 180.  Extreme stories of redemption remind me that if people can change the really big stuff in their lives, then I can change the little stuff in mine.  


I would like to share with you three of my favorite stories of redemption (sorry Michael Vick, you were a very close 4th place):


Story of Redemption #1: Paul the Apostle
Paul is rad.  Buuuuut he wasn't always rad.  In fact, when we first meet Paul in Acts chapter 7, he is totally NOT rad.  Quite the contrary, Paul is actually a major bully.  At this point, Paul is still an over zealous Pharisee named Saul.  Saul's favorite hobby was to persecute and kill Christians (if you are looking for a hobby, I would recommend poetry or knitting before persecuting and killing).  Luke (the author of Acts, in case you are into trivia) describes Saul in this manner: "As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison" (Acts 8:3) and "Saul [breathed] out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord" (Acts 9:1).  Saul was clearly leaning to the dark side of the force.


Some may argue that Saul was simply trying to follow the law of Moses in his persecution of the Christians, but I think he got a little too much personal enjoyment from his job of persecuting.  But it's not what I think that is important.  Rather, let's take a look at what the Lord thought about Saul's antics.  As Saul was skipping down the road looking for more Christians to bully and imprison, he suddenly saw a bright light from heaven.  Naturally, he was scared and fell to the earth.  He then heard a voice saying, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?"  To his credit, Saul at least made an attempt to answer the voice by asking, "Who art thou, Lord?...what will thou have me to do?"  The Lord replied, "Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do" (Acts 9:3-6).  Clearly the Lord thought that Saul needed to change his behavior.  


To make a long story short, Saul did exactly what the Lord told him to do.  He changed his name to Paul (nothing wrong with a fresh start!), was called to be one of the 12 apostles, wrote 9 books of scripture, served multiple missions, was shipwrecked, imprisoned and whipped, testified before kings and priests all across the Roman Empire, and ultimately gave his life as a martyr for the gospel.  


Not too shabby for a former bully.


"Paul the Apostle" by some guy named Rembrandt,
from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_the_Apostle 


Story of Redemption #2: Alma the Younger


Do you ever recall hearing stories about a bishop's kid or a mayor's son who totally rebels against his parents?  Well, those stories share a lot in common with that of Alma the Younger and his best buddies Ammon, Aaron, Omner, and Himni in the Book of Mormon (since all those names are a mouthful, let's pretend that Ammon, Aaron, Omner, and Himni are a boy band called the "Sons of Mo" for short).  Alma's dad (who was also named Alma) wasn't just the bishop; he was the Prophet.  And the Sons of Mo's dad was much more than the mayor; he was King Mosiah.   


Well, Alma and the Sons of Mo rebelled against their dads and did everything that they could to bring down the Church.  In my mind, I like to think of Alma as the ringleader.  We can speculate on his motives--perhaps he felt like his dad didn't pay enough attention to him, or maybe he thought Church was boring, or possibly he was sick and tired of being called "the Younger" all the time (just look at how Indiana Jones reacted to being called Junior).  Whatever the case may be, we know that he (Alma, not Indiana Jones) was "a very wicked and an idolatrous man....who stole away the hearts of the people...going about to destroy the church of God" (Mosiah 27:8-10).  Later in life, Alma himself said, "I had murdered many of [God's] children, or rather led them away unto destruction" (Alma 36:14).


However, much like the case of Paul, the Lord had other plans for Alma the Younger and the Sons of Mo.


On one sunny afternoon (that's how I picture it in my mind), Alma and the Sons of Mo were up to no good, causing trouble in their neighborhood.  Suddenly, an angel appeared unto them and with a voice of thunder, said, "Alma, arise and stand forth, for why persecutest thou the church of God?...can you dispute the power of God? For behold, does not my voice shake the earth?  ...go the way, and seek to destroy the church no more....[or] be cast off" (Mosiah 27:13-16).  Oh snap.


"Alma the Younger Called to Repentance" by Gary L. Kapp.  Found at http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/book_of_mormon/people/alma_2.html


Fortunately, Alma, Ammon, Aaron, Omner, and Himni took the message to heart.  They repented of their sins and from that point on, they did everything they could to spread the gospel and bring people to Christ.  Alma became the next prophet.  The Sons of Mo became some of the greatest missionaries of all time (and quite possibly had a #1 single).  A very significant portion of the Book of Mormon focuses on their lives.  If you are looking for an amazing story of redemption, I can think of no better place to start than here.


Story of Redemption #3: Darth Vader


There is something extremely tragic (but also extremely satisfying) about the story of Darth Vader.  Okay, so I understand that Darth Vader is fictional (please don't tell that to my nephew Jack), but does that make his story any less exceptional?  Of course not!  Without Darth Vader, Star Wars would be nothing more than the story of a whiny farmer and his twin sister with weird hair. In my mind, Darth Vader is the numero uno bad guy in all of fiction.  He blows up planets, he tortures his own kids, he chokes people when they disagree with him, and he hates wookiees (truly evil!).  


If you take the Star Wars movies chronologically, the first time we meet Darth Vader is when he is still just an innocent slave boy named Anakin Skywalker.  He is tenderhearted, caring, and has a knack for building obnoxious droids.  


Little orphan Ani.
 http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Anakin_Skywalker
However, as he grows into a Jedi Knight, Anakin begins to change.  His power leads to pride, and he starts to think he is better than everyone else.  He breaks all kinds of Jedi rules, including killing a whole village of Sand People, marrying a Queen/Senator/Cougar, and having a ridiculous haircut.


See?  Ridiculous haircut.
http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Anakin_Skywalker
Ultimately, Anakin's pride and inability to live the Jedi way lead to his downfall.  He becomes paranoid of other Jedis, gives carpal tunnel to Mace Windu, changes his name to Darth Vader (the opposite of Saul changing his name to Paul), and tries to kill his best pal and mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi.  For the next 25 or so years, Darth Vader becomes a total jerk.  


Bad dude.  Cool costume.http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Anakin_Skywalker


Over the course of "A New Hope", "The Empire Strikes Back", and "Return of the Jedi", Vader does all kinds of evil things (see note above about BLOWING UP PLANETS).  However, perhaps the most important of the bad things Vader does is repeatedly attempt to convert his son Luke to the dark side.


At the climax of "Return of the Jedi", it seems that Vader has finally given up on Luke, as he sits back and watches the Emperor start to fry his son with Sith Lightning.  But then....something clicks beneath that big bad suit of armor.  Vader remembered who he really was.  He wasn't a Sith.  He was Anakin Skywalker, the Chosen One (sorry Harry Potter) who was destined to bring back balance to the force!  And bringing balance to the force is exactly what he did.  In an act of self-sacrifice, Anakin grabs the emperor, picks him up like a sack of potatoes, and chucks him down a massive reactor shaft.  As he is lifting the Emperor into the air, Anakin suffers from the effects of the Emperor's Force Lightning, and ultimately dies just a few moments later.  Despite all the bad things he did in his life, Anakin's ended up on the light side of the force.  


Anakin redeemed....and shiny.
http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Anakin_Skywalker


Conclusion:  Although I had a lot of fun including the story of Darth Vader in this blog post, in all seriousness my real goal in writing was to remind you that no matter how far a person may have fallen, there is always hope that he/she can repent, be redeemed, and come back to the light.  None of us are too far removed from the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  His love knows no bounds.  He never gives up on us.  He is our greatest friend, advocate, and source of hope.  It may seem ironic, but because of Jesus Christ, each one of us is a part of the truly greatest story of redemption ever told.


"Gentle Healer" by Greg Olsen. 


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

#11: Mormon Messages on Youtube

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You want to know what I really like?  Youtube.  I could waste days of my life on Youtube if I didn't have some sense of responsibility.  I also think it sounds funny when you say Youtube over and over: Youtube.  Youtube.  Youtube.  (Give it a try!)  


The Church also seems to really like Youtube.  In fact, the Church has its very own Youtube channel called the Mormon Channel (appropriate, right?). There are literally hundreds of videos on the Mormon Channel, ranging from Bible Stories, General Conference talks, videos especially for Youth, and many more.  However, my favorite part of the Mormon Channel is a sub-series titled  MormonMessages.  I absolutely LOVE this series.  These videos are incredible.  They and uplifting.  They are faith-sustaining.  And they inspire me to want to be a better person.  You can see these MormonMessages at http://www.youtube.com/user/MormonMessages#p/p.


Below are a few of my most favorite MormonMessages:


1. Charity - An Example of the Believers




2. Good Things to Come






3. Opportunities to Do Good





4. Dayton's Legs





5. My New Life - the Story of Stephanie Nielson



It feels me with reverence and gratitude to know that there are people in the world like this.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

#10: Regional Conference with Elder David A. Bednar.

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As many of you know, today was Regional Conference for the South Salt Lake County Region of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  The conference was held at the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City, but it was also broadcast to 90+ Stake Centers in the region.  We arrived at the church just in time to sit in some of the "soft seats" in front of the gym.  Hooray for soft seats!


During the conference, there were great talks given by General Young Men's President David Beck, by the General Young Women's President (Aunt Elaine Dalton), by Elder Craig C. Christensen (I wish my name had triple C's), and last but certainly not least, by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the 12 apostles.


Elder David A. Bednar, as found athttp://lds.org/church/leader/david-a-bednar?lang=eng
Elder Bednar's talk was wonderful.  I would like to give a paraphrased version of the talk in case you may have missed it (or in case you happen to live in South Dakota or South Korea).


Elder Bednar started his talk by telling a story about his son Mike.  When Mike was eight years old, he played on a championship-caliber youth soccer team in Arkansas.  In fact, Mike's team was scheduled to play in the league championship the next week.  However, the game was scheduled for Sunday.  Elder Bednar was curious to see if his son would choose to obey the commandments and keep the Sabbath day holy or if he would decide to play in the game instead.  He asked his son, "Mike, what do you want to do?"  His son replied, "Well, we don't play on Sunday.  Let's visit the coach."  


Elder Bednar drove Mike to the coach's house, Mike went to the door alone, rang the doorbell, waited for the door to open, and then when it did, he simply said, "Coach, I won't be playing in the championship game on Sunday because I will be in church."  Then he turned around and went back to the car.  Elder Bednar asked his son, "Are you okay?" To which, Mike replied, "Yeah, can we stop at McDonalds now?"  Elder Bednar used this story to humorously demonstrate the power of a child's faith and to emphasize the role that parents have in teaching their children to have such faith at an early age.


The rest of Elder Bednar's talk focused on three principles:


1. The Character of Christ
2. The Difference Between Testimony and Conversion
3. The Strength We Gain from the Atonement


I would like to use the rest of this blog post to discuss Elder Bednar's explanation of the "Character of Christ", as I found it to be particularly powerful.


When Elder Bednar was a new stake president, he attended a meeting taught by Elder Neal A. Maxwell.  During the meeting, Elder Maxwell said, "If not for the character of Christ, there would have been no atoning sacrifice."


Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926-2004), courtesy of
http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/45922/Apostles-work-continues-beyond-the-veil.html
This greatly impacted Elder Bednar.  Soon after the meeting,  Elder Bednar decided to study the topic of the "character of Christ".  Elder Bednar defined the "character of Christ" as the moral capacity and moral choices made by Jesus Christ.  Elder Bednar gave the following examples of the "character of Christ":  


A. 40 Day Fast -- After Jesus had fasted for 40 days, He was met by Satan, who tempted Him with food, power, pride, and prestige.  Despite His weakened  state, Christ resisted all of these temptations.  Matthew 4:11 says that after this encounter, "Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him."  Elder Bednar explained that although it would have been wonderful to have angels come and minister to Christ after He had been through such a difficult ordeal (a 40 day fast followed up by a spiritual battle with the devil!), the Joseph Smith Translation of the verse actually describes the experience differently.  It reads, "Then the devil leaveth him, and now Jesus knew that John was cast into prison, and he sent angels, and, behold, they came and ministered unto him (John)."  What a difference!!!  Even in His weakened and tired state, Jesus was unselfishly thinking of someone else.  Instead of relying on angels to comfort and strengthen Himself, Jesus sent them to help out His cousin John the Baptist, who, in reality, was probably suffering much less than Jesus Himself was at the time.  This is one example of the "character of Christ".


"Denying Satan" by Carl Bloch, courtesy of
http://freechristimages.org/biblestories/temptation_of_jesus.htm
B. Healing the ear of the High Priest's guard -- After completing the most grueling and difficult trial ever experienced, Christ began to descend from the Garden of Gethsemane with his apostles.  Judas Iscariot, who had left he presence of the Savior a mere few hours before, met Jesus with a number of armed guards and betrayed him with a kiss (Matthew 26:49).  In a hasty reaction, Peter, the chief apostle, reached out with his sword and smote off the ear of one of the guards.  At this point, Jesus was physically and emotionally exhausted.  He had just "sweat...as it were great drops of blood" (Luke 22:44) during the agony of the Atonement.  He had much bigger things to worry about than the ear of one of his enemies.  But what did He do?  He reached out and healed the man's ear.  Even after enduring the greatest trial of all time, the Savior looked outward and demonstrated love and compassion to someone whose suffering was far less than His own.  This is another example of the "character of Christ".


"Jesus Heals Malchus" by James Tissot, as found at
 http://www.joyfulheart.com/holy-week/jesus_heals_malchus.htm


C. "Behold thy mother!" -- Even in His darkest hour as He hung on the cross, Jesus continued to look outward.  Jesus knew that after His death, His mother Mary would be left without His earthly companionship and that she would need someone else to take care of her.  At that moment of indescribable pain, John 19:26-27 records, "When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple (John) standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son.  Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother!  And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home".  Until the very end, Christ never deviated or lost focus.  He always unselfishly focused outward on others.  This is perhaps one of the greatest examples of the "character of Christ". 


"Behold thy Mother" as found at
http://www.churchofgodcarmichael.org/mature-adult/mature-adult-class-blog/818-happy-mothers-day.html
I am grateful that I had the privilege of listening to Elder Bednar's talk this morning.  However, much more so, I am grateful for the "character of Christ".  He truly is our perfect example.  My greatest desire is to become a bit more like Him each day.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

#9: Object Lesson Gone Wrong.

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Ah, object lessons.  Dramatic demonstrations used to drive home a point.  You know the ones I am talking about....boiling frogs in a pot to demonstrate gradual decline into sin (I've been afraid of both frogs and stoves since first hearing this), driving near a ledge to demonstrate an attitude of "How far can I go and still be okay?", silver being refined in a fire to demonstrate personal growth from trials, filling a jar with marbles and sand to demonstrate priorities, etc.  Object lessons have great merit, and they can really help to drive home a point.  However, sometimes that point can be missed entirely.  For example:


When I was a senior in high school, I thought I was "the man".  I was on Seminary Counsel, I got asked to the first girl's choice dance of the year (thanks Tara!), I was in the West Jordan High School Madrigals Choir, and I had a great looking haircut.  One winter Sunday night, we had a fireside at my Stake Center where the missionaries were teaching a lesson about the power of faith.  Since they understood the value of a good object lesson, they decided to use one such object lesson on that Sunday night.  They piled up two stacks of bricks and put one brick on top of the others.  They then placed a phonebook on top of the single brick.  The missionaries then shared their object lesson: sometimes your life will have trials and challenges (like a brick), but if you act with faith (using your hand to hit the phonebook), you will be able to break the brick.  The missionaries then asked for volunteers to "demonstrate their faith" by breaking the brick.


Remember how I thought I was "the man"?  Well, I volunteered to go first. 









Lesson learned #1:  Sometimes object lessons can be painful.  Oh, and I hate bricks.


You want to know what made it even worse?  My older sister Amy tried to break the brick next.  It was no problem for her.


Lesson learned #2: Humility.


You want to know what made it even more worse?  My mom had to take me to the hospital to get a brace since I sprained my hand.


Lesson learned #3:  Mom's are nice.



Sunday, October 16, 2011

#8: Part 2: My favorite Mormon iPhone apps.

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One cool thing I discovered today is that if you run home from Church while wearing a tie, it flies behind you like a little cape and you almost feel like a Superhero....with a little cape.

Anyway, on an unrelated note, I'd like to pick up where I left off yesterday with my list of favorite Mormon-related iPhone apps.  So far I have discussed the official LDS Gospel Library (Free) and the BYU Citation Index (Free).  See blog post #7.

#3 Most Awesome Mormon-related App:  I am a big fan of scripture memorization.  It makes me feel great to know some of the scriptures by heart and to then share them with others at appropriate moments.  I have tried a number of different memorization apps on the iPhone, such as the official LDS Scripture Mastery app, Scriptorian, LDS Memory: Scripture Mastery, and iMemorize.  But I have found each of them to have frustrating features or some buggy drawbacks.  As a result, I continued to look for an ideal memorization app.  AND boy did I find it!

My absolute favorite app for scripture memorization is "Memorize Now!", developed by a guy named Jesse Mecham (Bless him for his impressive APPtitude!).  This app is not technically a Mormon app, but dang, you can sure use it to memorize Mormon-related content. "Memorize Now!" differs from other memorization apps by applying a unique 10-step algorithm for memorizing text.  It claims to help you memorize 400% faster than traditional memorization techniques.  After using it for the past week, I completely believe it.  It requires about two hours to paste in all of the 100 LDS scripture mastery verses, but it is soooooooo worth it (extra o's for emphasis).  The incremental nature of the algorithm makes it intuitive and comfortable to memorize large volumes of text at a very rapid pace.  In addition to scriptures, you can use it to memorize any other passage, such as General Conference talks, lyrics to God Bless the USA, the Gettysburg Address, or Green Eggs & Ham (you can also memorize things that don't start with G, but I haven't tried that yet).

The only drawback of this app is the price--$4.99.  However, although that may seem steep for an app, it's actually less than the price of a regular size Strawberry Surfrider Jamba Juice.

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/memorize-now!/id383718865?mt=8
#4 Most Awesome Mormon-related App: Scripture Golf, baby!  This app is sweeter than ice cream.  I used to play Scripture Golf on my mission, and it is great to see it back in electronic form.  In scripture golf, a random verse of scripture appears on the screen.  You then try to guess the corresponding Book of Scripture that contains the verse (Alma, for example).  If you are correct, it will then take you to a list of chapters within the Book.  You then pick a chapter.  If you are correct, then the round is over.  If you are incorrect, it will say "Select higher!" or "Select lower!" until you guess the chapter that contains the verse.  Once you have selected the correct chapter, it will display your total number of guesses, and the total will equal your number of strokes for the round (See? It's almost, kinda, pretty much, exactly just like golf!).  

There is a free "Book of Mormon Only" edition or a full Standard Works version for $0.99.  In the full version, you can still narrow it down to only pull verses from the Book of Mormon.  My favorite feature of the full $0.99 version is that you have the option to give both yourself and your opponent the exact same verse for greater equality.  In the free version, there is nothing worse than getting a verse like "And then will I remember my covenant which I have made unto my people, O house of Israel, and I will bring my gospel unto them" (don't even pretend you know where it is) and your opponent gets, "I Nephi, having been born of goodly parents...".  That darn Nephi and his easy to guess verses!

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/scripture-golf/id331736074?mt=8
#5 Honorable Mentions: There are many other great Mormon-related apps, but I'm tired of typing and need to take a Sunday afternoon nap.  Therefore, I will condense the rest to honorable mentions.  My four favorite honorable mentions are all officially developed by the Church.  They are all completerly FREE (can't beat that price).  I personally don't use these apps very frequently (yet), but I know some people who do:


1. LDS Tools. Official LDS Stake and Ward directories.  Great for looking up phone numbers, addresses, and callings of people in your Stake and Ward.  You can even download the information to your phone contacts (although you have to do so one-by-one).  If you download the info, you don't need to keep connecting to the app to get the data, and it will show you on your caller ID when your bishop calls (that way, you can decide whether or not you want to answer and have to speak in Church next week).


2. Mormon Channel. Great app for watching/listening to General Conference, scriptures, Church magazines, Youtube Mormon Messages, and other programs.  Fantastic if you are somewhere with a wi-fi network.  The only drawback is that it will not work over a 3G network, so you cannot use it if you are driving in your car/minivan/Segway.


3. LDS Music.  This app was only released a week ago, but I'm already starting to love it.  It presents the hymns and Primary songs in the actual version that you would see them in the Hymnbook/Children's Song Book, rather than in the text only format in the Gospel Library app. 


4. LDS Youth. This app seems very similar to the Mormon Channel, but with a youthful flavor.  I have honestly never used it (although I am still young at heart).  


Phew!  Made it through the list.  Please let me know if there are any other Mormon-related apps that you love to use.  

Saturday, October 15, 2011

#7: Part 1: My favorite Mormon iPhone apps.

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Last year, the company that I work for got me an iPhone.  I had never had a smartphone before (although I once knew a kid who had a Mickey Mouse phone that would talk to you.  I thought that was a pretty smart phone).

As a video game lover, I was extremely excited about some of the games I had heard about on the iPhone, such as Plants vs. Zombies ("Braaaaaaiiiiiins!"), Paper Toss (tossing paper in a garbage can....but on a phone!), and Angry Nerds (or whatever that game is called).  Naturally, I bought these games immediately, and for a time, I became an iPhone gaming appoholic.  I had some very good times with my electronic friends named Tower Defense, Swords n' Soldiers, Jetpack Joyride, and of course, Infinity Blade (just one more fight and then I'll stop playing!).  

Although I still love playing an iPhone game for a half an hour now and then, I have mostly recovered from my appoholicness.  Indeed, I actually deleted most of my iPhone games because Elder Ian S. Arden's General Conference talk (found at http://lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/a-time-to-prepare?lang=eng) helped me remember that there were better ways to spend my time (like blogging about Mormons and Wookiees, for example).  Even though I deleted many of my gaming apps, there are some other apps that I absolutely love and use on a daily basis.  Some of these apps are Mormonism related.  In case you are interested, see the list of my favorite Mormon-related apps below (in order of awesomeness, of course).

#1 Most Awesome Mormon-related App:  LDS Gospel Library.  This app is INCREDIBLE.  Not just regular incredible, but lightsaber level incredible.  It contains the entire LDS scripture canon (Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price), every General Conference talk back to 1974 (my dad was still in high school), every Church magazine back to 1971 (my dad wasn't even in high school yet), the Hymns and Children's Song Book (gotta love "Give Said the Little Stream"), and much more.  And the best part?  It's free.  Not $14.99.  Not $9.99.  Not even $3.57. FREE.

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/lds-gospel-library/id365223775?mt=8

#2 Most Awesome Mormon-related App: BYU Citation Index.  This app is also incredible.  It contains every General Conference talk and every Journal of Discourses sermon clear back to the early days of the Church.  However, simply containing the talks is not the best part of the app.  What the app REALLY does is so much more.  The main page starts with a list of the various books of scripture (see picture below) in the standard works.  If you click on one of the books (to make things simple, let's pick everyone's favorite book, Zephaniah), it will then show you a list of chapters.  If you click on one of the chapters, it will then show you a list of verses.  If you click on a particular verse, it will then show you EVERY SINGLE TALK that has mentioned that verse!!!  You can then click on the talk and read the full context.  Oh, and it's free too.  Boo-yah!

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/lds-scripture-citation-index/id380114655?mt=8

Right now I am studying Matthew 5, which happens to have 1,009 talks written about it.  So far I have read the first 7 (only 1,002 to go!). If you really want to use the Citation Index to its fullest, check out the even more robust online version for your PC or Mac at http://scriptures.byu.edu/.  This version provides everything on the app, but IN ADDITION it allows you to search by speaker to see which scripture they reference the most frequently.  For example, did you know that President Monson's most frequently cited verse is 1Timothy 4:12?  He has referenced "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” twenty different times!  It is very interesting to see what verse a particular speaker references the most.   You should check out President Hinckley and Joseph Smith—their citations are pretty similar.

I will post Part 2 of my very most favoritestest Mormon-related iPhone apps tomorrow.  Until then, gwraaaaaaar! ("See you later" in Wookieesh). 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

#6: Patterns and celebrity/Mormon look-alikes.

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One of the things you ought to know about my personality is that I like to look for patterns.  I see patterns in the clouds, patterns in my socks, and patterns in the carpet at work.  Does that make me a nerd?  Absolutely.

Another pattern that I often see is common features in people's faces.  It's not like, "Hey, that guy has a nose. So do I!".  Instead, it is like when I see someone, I often think that the person is someone I already know or recognize.  For example, if Diane and I go to a restaurant (preferably someplace that serves spaghetti or chicken fingers), I always see someone that I think I recognize.  Unfortunately, I have a tendency to go ask this person if they are who I think they are or are at least to ask them if they are related to the person who I think they are (For any grammar nuts reading this blog, I know that "they" should actually read "he/she", but I like to live my life on the wild side).


Anyway, more often than not, I am wrong in assuming this person is who I think they are. At that point, the person usually thinks I'm (1) confused, (2) trying to be funny, or (3) creepy.  The point of all this is that I sometimes see common features between famous Mormons and famous celebrities.  Am I off my rocker?  I'll leave that up to you.

President Heber J. Grant and Sir Sean Connery
Young Donny and Bieber Fever
My dog Diesel and Wicket the Ewok
Coach Bronco Mendenhall and Shrek
Coach Kyle Whittingham and Superman
President Spencer W. Kimball and Jedi Master Yoda
Let me know if there are others that you can think of.  I'm sure they are out there!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

#5: Primary Class and T.A.K.E.

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A month ago, I was released as a youth Sunday School teacher in my ward and called to teach the 10-year old Primary class instead. Before I was called, it had been exactly sixteen years since I last attended Primary (graduating class of 1994, baby!). There are ten kids in my class--six boys and four girls. Surprisingly, all of the kids are quite well behaved--especially the girls. In fact, I think the girls have said a total of three sentences in the time I have been their teacher. I think they may actually be monks (can girls be monks?) who have taken a vow of silence. 


This week in class I taught about the Aaronic Priesthood and the importance of the Sacrament. I remember when I was a kid that the Sacrament seemed a little confusing to me.  I understood what it represented, but I had a hard time remembering the promises I made each week in the Sacrament prayer.  To help me out, my mom taught me a great acronym to remember the promises we make when we T.A.K.E. the Sacrament each week.


Take His name upon you
Always remember Him
Keep the commandments
Endure to the end






See?  My mom is cool like that.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

#4: Nephew and nieces invade the rebel base.

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This post has nothing to do with being a Mormon, other than the fact that it is being posted by one.  However, I figure that not every post needs to be gospel centric.  


Today and throughout the rest of the weekend, Diane and I get to hang out with our nephew and three nieces (ages 6, 4, 4, and 1.248, respectively).  My favorite part of having them here is that my maturity level is right on par with theirs, so we always have a rockin' good time.  Tonight we played Jedi vs. Superhero vs. Ghostbuster vs. Disney Princess vs. Killer Ninja Baby.  Surprisingly, the Ninja Baby won the fight.

Anyway, I sure love these kids.  Here is my nephew (the Superhero) snuggling up in bed.


Super Nephew

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

#3: Some thoughts on General Conference

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Now that I have had a few days to think about it, here are a few of my thoughts from General Conference:


1. Elder Ian S. Ardern's talk about not wasting time was superb. In fact, I think it was my favorite talk of the whole conference. His talk was actually the reason I decided to start this blog. In particular, when he said, "I know our greatest happiness comes as we tune in to the Lord (see Alma 37:37) and to those things which bring a lasting reward, rather than mindlessly tuning in to countless hours of status updates, Internet farming, and catapulting angry birds at concrete walls. I urge each of us to take those things which rob us of precious time and determine to be their master, rather than allowing them through their addictive nature to be the master of us."

His words hit me personally and deeply.  I'm not saying that I waste tons of time, because that's not true.  I'm actually quite good about how I spend my time.  But I do DESIRE to waste lots of time.  Although I rarely do it, there is probably nothing I would rather do than sit down and play Nintendo for an hour each night.  I love to be entertained.  In fact, I live for it.  


But, as I listened to Elder Ardern's talk, I realized I needed to change.  And I knew that I COULD change.  As a result, I am now really trying to change the focus of MOST OF my free time from playing, relaxing, and checking Facebook to learning, serving, and blogging.  Trust me, I will still play, and I will love every minute of it.  But I'm going to work to change my desires so that I don't LIVE for it anymore.  


I was so impacted by Elder Ardern's talk, that as I listened to it, I felt like Grand Moff Tarkin was shooting the Death Star laser directly at my Alderaanian heart....but in a pleasant way that made me want to start using my time more wisely, rather than in a painful way that blew my planet to bits.  
This is Grand Moff Tarkin, firer of the literal Death Star laser (painful).
This is NOT Elder Ian S. Ardern, firer of the metaphorical Death Star laser (pleasant).
2. I always love it when my aunt Elaine S. Dalton speaks.  She is always so funny and cheerful at our family picnics.  Okay, so I'm lying.  She's not my aunt, but we are related in the sense that "we are all children of God".  Close enough for me.
Aunt Elaine
3. Elder Tad R. Callister gave a great talk about the relationship between the Bible and the Book of Mormon.  At one point in the talk, he put up a picture of a white circle representing the Bible.  He then connected it with a blue line to another white circle representing the Book of Mormon. It reminded me of this picture, although there was only one of them.
Q-Tips and/or figurative representation
of the Bible and the Book of Mormon
4. I am really glad I was at Priesthood Session on Saturday night, rather than watching the University of Utah v. Washington football game.  That's all I'm going to say.


5. Overall, I felt that General Conference was wonderful.  It is always uplifting and makes me want to try harder to be a better person.  In case you are interested, you can view, listen to, read, or download any General Conference talk at http://lds.org/general-conference/sessions/2011/10?lang=eng.


Until next time, stay righteous, my friends.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

#2: A wee bit about me.

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As I mentioned before (and as the non-wookiee part of my blog name would suggest), I'm a Mormon (also known as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints).  Always have been.  Always will be.  Being a Mormon is fantastic.  Now I know you may be thinking, "Pffffff. Being a Mormon is lame.  You guys don't drink, you don't have pre-marital sex, and you have to go to church every single week.  That doesn't sound so fantastic to me.  I'd rather be sailing."

Well, before you go sailing, I want you to hear me out.  Here are five of the reasons why being a Mormon is fantastic.

#1 reason why being a Mormon is fantastic:  Jesus Christ lives and leads this Church.  He is my Savior.  He is your Savior.  He is our perfect example and greatest friend.  My strongest desire is to live with Him again someday, and because of what He did for me, I really can.

"Divine Redeemer" by Simon Dewey
#2 reason why being a Mormon is fantastic: We have a prophet on earth today, President Thomas S. Monson.  President Monson may be 84 years-old, but he's sharp as a tack.  He is literally Christ's representative on the earth.  He knows exactly what guidance the world needs.  I love and admire President Monson, and I know that he lives what he preaches.  Case in point, a few years ago, I had major lung surgery.  Guess who came to visit me, despite his busy schedule?  Yup, President Monson.  He has 13 million other members of the Church to worry about, but he took the time to come and visit me.  I gladly proclaim, "We thank thee, O God, for a prophet" (LDS Hymns, 19).
President Thomas S. Monson
President Monson visiting me when I was sick as a dog.
#3 reason why being a Mormon is fantastic:  I'm married to this little lady, Diane.  Diane is a Mormon.  And she's a hot Mormon.  Odds are that I wouldn't have met her and she wouldn't have married me if I wasn't a Mormon too.  That should be reason enough for any sane guy.

Diane is the best wife in the world.
#4 reason why being a Mormon is fantastic:  I'm the happiest guy in the world.  Being a Mormon makes you happy.  As I mentioned above, we have commandments we try to live by (like not smoking, paying tithing, and using our time wisely to serve our fellowman).  Some people may view these commandments as being restrictions, intended to suck the joy out of life like a mosquito at the beach.  Well, I see the commandments with an entirely different perspective.  The more we obey the commandments, the more we will be free from addicting and harmful behaviors.  The more we are free from addicting and harmful behaviors, the more we will be in-tune to the promptings of the Holy Ghost.  The more we are in-tune to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, the more peace and comfort we will feel.  The more peace and comfort we feel, the happier we will be.  See?  It makes sense.

#5 reason why being a Mormon is fantastic:  Being a Mormon is like being a Jedi.  Let me build the analogy first.  In order to be a Jedi you have to sacrifice and obey strict Jedi-type laws, but as a result, you get to carry a lightsaber, you can enjoy performing mind tricks on stormtroopers, and you can move things around just by waving your hands.  Now you may say, "Whoa, whoa, whoa.  Sith get to do those same things and they are totally evil."  Well, that's true.  BUT have things ever worked out in the long run for a Sith?  Palpetine was wrinkly and got thrown off a cliff by his best man, Vader had no real limbs and had worse lungs than I do, and Darth Maul is "halfing" a bad day.  Clearly, being a Jedi is the way to go.  Now, what does this have to do with being a Mormon?  Well, Mormon's also have to sacrifice and obey the commandments, but as a result, they are blessed with peace, happiness, and hope for the future (and maybe a lightsaber if they know where to find one).

Until next time....stay righteous, my friends.