Friday, December 30, 2011

#33: Temple wedding of Rose and Ryan.

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My sweet baby sister-in-law Roseann got married in the Idaho Falls Temple today! Rose and Ryan met a couple of years ago in their Single's Ward (just like me and Diane!). In my humble opinion, Rose is one of the most wonderful people you will ever meet (and Ryan isn't too bad either ;)). I am so happy for them and wish them the best in their new marriage.
One of Rose and Ryan's engagement photos.
Rose was the last of Diane's siblings to get married (7 for 7!), and it was a wonderful wedding. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with an LDS temple wedding, in the temple a husband and wife are sealed together for eternity.  You can think of being sealed as the same as links in a chain being welded together.  This chain will stay connected even after death. During the sealing ceremony, the couple kneels across an alter and promises to be faithful to one another (and then they have a newlywed smooch, of course!). If we live up to the promises we make in the marriage sealing, we will have the chance to live together as a family after we die.  I think it is one of the most beautiful parts of the gospel.
A temple Sealing room.
Only people who have been baptized as members of the Church are able to obtain a temple recommend and enter the temple to view a marriage sealing ceremony. This requirement can be hard news for family members and friends who are not Mormons because they are unable to see the marriage ceremony of their loved ones. We never want these family members and friends to feel like they are excluded or not loved just because they cannot enter the temple. Rather, we want them to understand that entering into the temple is sacred to us and is a result of the promises we make as members of the Church. We would never try to make our family and friends feel bad, especially when they have taken the time and expense to come to our weddings to celebrate with us. As a result, despite not being able to enter the temple, there are many wonderful parts of the wedding day that take place AFTER the ceremony which everyone can attend and participate in. Here are some of the highlights from Rose and Ryan's wedding day (Oh, and please accept my apology in advance for the quality of the pictures--that's what you get when you have an amateur photographer using his iPhone to record the events of a wedding day!):
First newlywed kiss after coming out of the temple!
"That's what I'm talking about!" - Kipp Dynamite
Super baby!
"Sisters, sisters. There were never such devoted sisters!" - Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye
The kids watched "Attack of the Clones" (also an appropriate title for all the movie sequels that came out this year) while we finished taking wedding pictures.
This is the ONLY time you will ever see my brother-in-law Jed caught dancing on camera.
Feeding each other some wedding cake (without a single cake-face-smash).
Rose dancing with her dad (and one of my best friends).
Grabbing the garter. Ryan, you sly dog.
Baby cousins rockin' out to some swing music.
"All the single ladies!" (Kayne West's favorite music video of all time).
Last but not least, here is a tribute video to Rose and Ryan from Rose and Diane's brother Ben.




Congratulations on your wonderful wedding, Rose! I sure do love ya. And may the force be with you....always.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

#32: Church magazines.

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Each month, the Church distributes four magazines to anyone who is interested in subscribing (OR you can get them entirely free online at http://lds.org/magazine?lang=eng). I recommend them with two lightsabers up.

1) The "Ensign" is an English-only magazine for adult members. It features uplifting gospel messages from both the leaders of the Church (President Monson and the apostles) and from regular members like my mom (see her awesome article about entertainment standards, written in June 2001 at http://lds.org/ensign/2001/06/setting-family-standards-for-entertainment?lang=eng). My mom is rad!

If you are looking for a good-looking temple, San Diego's can't be beat!
2) The "New Era" is similar to the "Ensign", but geared to teenagers instead of adults.  I LOVED the "New Era" when I was a teenager. As a matter of fact, I still love it. It contains great messages and uplifting stories about youth around the world. In addition, it also has a feature known as "MormonAds".  MormonAds are posters that contain a catchy slogan and a humorous (most of the time) picture. For example, one of my favorite MormonAds of all-time is shown below. You can see every single MormonAd from the past 30 years at http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?locale=0&sourceId=0ca9835e2cd78110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&vgnextoid=024644f8f206c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD.
Insert whatever BYU football joke you would like.
3) The "Friend" is also similar to the "Ensign" and "New Era", but focused specifically on young kids. I like to use articles and ideas from the "Friend" when I teach my primary class. 
She's gonna be waiting a looooooong time for those butterflies still in their cocoons.
4) The "Liahona" takes articles from the "Ensign", "New Era", and "Friend" and combines them into one magazine for international distribution. Impressively, the "Liahona" is translated and printed in 51 different languages each month (Unfortunately, Wookieesh is not one of those 51 languages).
Lehi. Not Santa Claus.
Go check 'em out! I guarantee that you will feel better after reading these magazines than you ever would after reading "People" or "Cosmopolitan". 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

#31: Christmas lights at Temple Square.

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This afternoon, Diane's brother Andrew and his wife Liz flew into town for Christmas. Since they don't get to come to Utah very often at this time of year, they suggested that we go see the Christmas lights downtown at Temple Square. Diane and I haven't gone to see the lights for a few years now, so we were excited to go.  We bundled up and headed downtown (after stopping by at Cafe Rio for a delicious Christmas Eve dinner, of course. Feliz Navidad!).
"Free Meal!"
We had a wonderful time at Temple Square. The lights were beautiful, the Spirit was peaceful, and the company was great.
Visiting the Salt Lake Temple never gets old.
Andrew and Liz with two adorable kids.
Go Utes!
A wookiee and an ewok.
My favorite part of Temple Square is the Christus statue. Every time I see it, I feel incredible peace and gratitude. With his outstretched arms, Christ's invitation is open to all: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).  Amongst all the shining lights at Temple Square, His light truly shines the brightest.  God bless you and merry Christmas!
Christus statue at the Temple Square visitor's center.
Nice video about the lights at Temple Square, as found at
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUazCvOrEHY

Thursday, December 22, 2011

#30: Chewbacca sings "Silent Night".

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My friend Chris McConnehey recently sent me an awesome audio remix of Chewbacca singing "Silent Night". Merry Christmas, Wookiee style! Grwaaaaaar!

Original video uploaded by Platinumhand31 to youtube 
at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cPXEo6gqBI
If this album were real, you can guarantee I would wait in line for it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

#29: Cruising aboard the Celebrity Solstice.

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Have you ever gone on a cruise? If not, then you really should go on one. And if you already have, well, then you should go again. Why? Because cruises are awesome!!! This week, Diane and I enjoyed a week-long Caribbean cruise aboard the Celebrity Solstice (average temperature of 77 degrees). A few minutes ago, we just got home to Utah (average temperature of 27).
77 degrees > 27 degrees.
We went on the cruise with some of my fantastic coworkers (I love my job!), and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I thought it would be fun to share some of the highlights.

We first got on the ship on Sunday, December 11th (never call a cruise ship a "boat" because, as one of my friends discovered, you will offend the crew). The Celebrity Solstice had just been to Europe where 118 people came down with a nasty virus on the ship. As a result, the crew spent a few extra hours deep-cleaning the ship before we could board. Since I'm a bit of a germaphobe, I didn't really mind. Although, as a precaution, hand sanitizer was still required before entering any dining areas.

Diane and Summer keeping the ship free from both
disease and generic-brand hand sanitizer.



Once we got on the ship, it was absolutely beautiful. We had a room with our very own balcony. We loved to just sit back on the balcony and watch the waves.


Yup, that's a fly on my leg. I named him Juan Carlos.
One thing that I absolutely loved about the cruise was the food. And the food. And the food. Oh, and the food. You could eat whatever you want, whenever you want, wherever you want (and probably however you want, although I never really tested that). I loved to order room service straight from the TV (I gotta figure out a way to get something similar installed at
home).

Diane, enjoying a healthy salad.
Steve, enjoying chocolate ice cream, pizza, and sour patch kids.

Every night we ate dinner in the "Grand Epernay" dining room. I always made sure to get two desserts. On the first night, I ordered some milk with my dessert. From then on, every night our waiter, Buyung Andres, would bring me a glass of milk without me even needing to ask him. I am pretty sure I gained 15 pounds straight to my chin(s).

Formal night (Suit? White shirt and tie? Piece of cake for a Mormon boy!)
Another shot of my chubby chin.
Me and Buyung with some tasty whole milk.

One thing Diane and I vowed to do on the cruise was to take advantage of the ship's port "excursions". We went on excursions at Grand Cayman Island, at Cozumel, Mexico, and at Roatan, Honduras. The excursions were a little expensive, but absolutely worth it. At Grand Cayman, we went to a place called "Dolphin Cove" to hang out with some dolphins (coincidental, I know). We danced with them, kissed them (even though mine was a male), and just hung out with them in the water. After the fun time we had, I decided that I now want a dolphin as a 2nd pet (although I'll need to convince Diesel to share his crate).

Gettin' jiggy wid it.
Tasted like tuna.

In Cozumel, Mexico, we went parasailing with our friends Marc and Pepper (I agree, Pepper is a fun name). The fact that I went parasailing should be impressive to those of you who know me. Usually I am a wimp when it comes to doing things like strapping myself to a boat and flying 400 feet in the air. But we nailed it!

At one point, I looked down in the water, and said," Whoa! Check out the size of that jellyfish!"
Then I realized it was just the shadow of our parachute.
Our final excursion adventure was riding the zip line in Honduras. This was my favorite excursion. We literally soared above the jungle. We could see the entire island of Roatan, as well as the ocean. The view was breathtaking (and not just because I have bad lungs). In total, we rode ten ziplines over 2,500 feet. I think I am going to get a zipline in the backyard and train my new pet dolphin to use it.
A very small taste of what Batman must feel like every single day.
Rosie the Riveter.

Oh yeah, and Diane also got to hold a monkey while we were on Roatan. Let's just say it freaked her out a little bit.






Out last port was in Costa Maya, Mexico. We didn't do any excursions here (since nothing can top holding a monkey), but we did have a funny Star Wars experience. When we walked off of the ship onto the port, I was wearing one of my many Star Wars t-shirts. A Mexican crew members saw my shirt and started to wave her arms around like a lightsaber while humming the Imperial March. Then she actually roared at me like Chewbacca! Of course I responded with a wookiee roar of my own. We went back and forth a few times, and everyone around us was laughing. It felt good to meet a fellow wookiee so far away from home.

While on the ship, we participated in a number of fun activities, such as basketball (my team ALWAYS lost for some reason), dancing, event shows, napping, posing for fake magazine covers, and of course, karaoke. Ah, karaoke. What can I say? I love to make a fool of myself by pretending to be Elvis. "Jailhouse Rock" will never be the same again.
We played some B-ball in the rain.  No, that is not me going up for the dunk
(although I could TOTALLY do it).
Posing for a fake magazine cover with Summer and Monroe.
You should never go on a cruise without having a little cheese.
Apparently when I dance, my eyes roll into the back of my head.  Creepy.
"Jailhouse Rock" with full-on choreography.
Elvis is rolling over in his grave.

As much fun as we had doing everything I have mentioned above, there was one thing we did that was even more satisfying. During our week on the ship, we became good friends with our room housekeeper, a Filipino woman named Lenie. Lenie was one of the most gentle and humble people I have ever met. I really enjoyed learning about her life on the cruise ship (this is her tenth year with Celebrity) and about her family at home (two young daughters). She was a wonderful example to me of simple Christlike living. We talked briefly with Lenie about religion, and we learned that she had heard of Mormons but was not a member of the Church. Diane suggested that we should give Lenie the copy of the Book of Mormon that Diane had brought on the cruise. We wrote a note and gave her the book as we were leaving this morning. She was visibly touched and thanked us for thinking of her. It was a sweet experience. 

Our wonderful housekeeper Lenie.
Well, there you have it!  Like I said at the beginning, cruises really are awesome. It was a ton of fun to spend time with Diane and my friends from work. We definitely built some wonderful memories. Bon voyage!

Friday, December 9, 2011

#28: "Vader, Did You Know?" Christmas parody.

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My friend Jeff Burton just sent me a link that is perfect fit for Mormon Wookiee. See below for Vic Micnogna's hilarious "Vader, Did You Know?" (parody of Christmas favorite "Mary, Did You Know?"). Enjoy!

Actual youtube video can be found at

Thursday, December 8, 2011

#27: Man models as Jesus for Liz Lemon Swindle paintings.

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I saw a great article in the Deseret News' "Mormon Times" this morning by Trent Toone. In the article, Toone tells the fascinating story of a man named Phillip Miner.  Miner, who was raised as a Mormon, left the Church as a teenager. In 2005, while at Borders Bookstore (Rest In Peace, Borders), Miner was approached by an assistant of LDS artist Liz Lemon Swindle. Miner soon met Mrs. Swindle and began to do some modeling work for her paintings of Jesus. The article tells of Miner's conversion back to the gospel, as well as the background behind the following painting of Mrs. Swindle's titled "The Worth of a Soul":
"Worth of a Soul", by Liz Lemon Swindle,
as found at http://www.lizlemonswindle.com/
You can read the full article by Trent Toone at http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705395464/Modeling-as-Savior-helps-man-find-his-faith.html?pg=1. I really enjoyed the article.

As a side note, I also wanted to show you one of my favorite Liz Lemon Swindle paintings that my parents hung up in our house when I was growing up. It is called "Superman's Dad". It always made me feel important as a kid. Love ya, dad!

"Superman's Dad" by Liz Lemon Swindle,
as found at http://www.lizlemonswindle.com/

Sunday, December 4, 2011

#26: 2011 First Presidency Christmas Devotional.

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For me, nothing signals the start of the Christmas season quite like the annual First Presidency Christmas Devotional on the first Sunday of December (breaking out the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special is a close second place). Each member of the First Presidency speaks, and music is performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Temple Square Orchestra. Both the music and the talks at the devotional are always fantastic. As a kid, I remember enjoying the talks given by President James E. Faust. He always had touching stories about his Christmases as a young boy.

Tonight, President Dieter f. Uchtdorf, President Henry B. Eyring, and President Thomas S. Monson all spoke. The full transcripts of their 2011 talks are not yet available (right now, the link shows the 2010 devotional talks), but when they are, you will be able to find them at http://lds.org/broadcasts/archive/christmas-devotional/2011/12?lang=eng. In the meantime, I would like to give a brief summary of their talks and my own impressions.
President Uchtdorf, Eyring, and Monson (from left to right).
#1 President Dieter F. Uchtdorf:

With his typical wit, President Uchtdorf told the story of Christmas when he was a four-year-old boy in Czechoslovakia. One evening, he was in the room where his family kept their Christmas tree. The tree was decorated with ornaments, tinsel, and wax candles. President Uchtdorf took down and held one of the candles because he liked the way the light reflected in the window. He decided to stand next to the curtains in the window, and he soon learned two things: (1) the light looked beautiful behind the shadow of the curtains, and (2) the curtains were flammable. Fortunately, only the drapes were burned and no permanent damage occurred to the house. But as a small boy, he felt like he had ruined Christmas. His fear that he had ruined Christmas came from an understanding that, at that time, he didn't really know what the true meaning of Christmas was. He then acknowledged that in our day it is not only the children who do not always remember what the meaning of Christmas is, but adults as well. Today we become so focused on trying to make Christmas perfect, that the pressure becomes too much, and the perfect Christmas we have built up in our mind shatters around us whenever something goes wrong. As a result, the Christmas season becomes a time of stress and frustration instead of peace and joy. If we can learn to refocus on Christ, then Christmas will become much more meaningful to us. It does not require big changes in our lives--if we read a scripture or look for ways to serve, we will be able to keep the spirit of Christmas in our lives. We cannot give Christ the gift of perfection right now. But He does require that we give our best efforts to walk in the ways he has prepared and taught. On the other hand, the Savior's gifts to us are perfect, immeasurable, and incomparable. He has given us the gift of immortality and the possibility of eternal life with Him again, if we obey his commandments. He promises to be with us, to carry us when we stumble, to mourn and rejoice with us. Every day he offers to lead us by the hand. Because of Him, we can keep the spirit of Christmas with us always in our hearts.

#2 President Henry B. Eyring:

President Eyring spoke about the signs of Christ's birth as foretold by Samuel the Lamanite in the Book of Mormon. He also spoke about the Savior's birth (and the birth of his cousin John the Baptist) as found in the Book of Luke.


For me, the highlight of President Eyring's talk was his overview of the Church's AWESOME new bible videos website. The videos were filmed on the Church's new film set in Goshen, Utah, which is a massive replica of areas of ancient Jerusalem and Bethlehem. President Eyring stopped in the middle of his talk to show a few short clips from these videos, focusing on Mary and the birth of Christ. There are still many of the videos in the editing stages, but you can see the available videos at http://lds.org/bible-videos?lang=eng. You need to check these out (like right now, people)!!!

Mary is visited by the angel Gabriel, foretelling her role as the mother of the Son of God. 


Mary greets the shepherds at the birth of Christ. 

I was extremely touched by the videos shown by President Eyring. I can't wait to see more of them as they come out.

#3 President Thomas S. Monson:

I am so grateful for President Monson! The Spirit of the Lord radiates as he speaks. You can tell of the love that he has for not just members of the Church, but for all of humankind. He started his talk by saying "Thank you". He thanked those who came to the Conference Center, he thanked those who was watching at home, he thanked the employees of the church who work so hard to keep the operations of the Church running, and he thanked his two counselors, President Eyring and President Uchtdorf for their faithful service and friendship.

President Monson then said that it makes him sad to see the ever increasing commercialization of Christmas. It is becoming less and less about Christ, and more and more about shopping, marketing, and toys. We need to recapture and keep the spirit of Christmas by implementing Christ-centered traditions in our homes. He shared one such tradition in his own life: Every year, President Monson takes a few hours to read Luke 2, "The Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, and "The Mansion" by Henry Van Dyke.

President Monson gave a summary of "The Christmas Carol" and "The Mansion". Since I assume that most of you are already familiar with "The Christmas Carol", I will focus instead on "The Mansion" (a book that I had never heard of before tonight). "The Mansion" tells the story of a wealthy, politically powerful man named John Weightman. John was a generous man--he had donated to the wing of a hospital, to schools, to churches, and to other notable charitable causes. BUT John only liked to give if he got the credit for it. John said, "Of course you have to be careful how you give, in order to secure the best results--no indiscriminate giving--no pennies in beggars' hats!" One Christmas Eve, as John was reading a verse from the Bible, he fell asleep. In his dreams, he was taken to heaven, as men and women were each shown their respective mansions. Finally, after waiting and watching so many others being given large and spacious mansions, John was taken to a small hut. "This is your mansion", he was told, because, "that is all the material you sent us". After he awakens, John's heart his changed, and he realizes that true service must be unselfish. President Monson said, "He had a life yet to live, love to share, and gifts to give."

President Monson further explained that the spirit of Christmas illuminates us as we become more interested in "people than in things". Rather than "spend" Christmas, let us "keep it in our hearts", for when we keep the spirit of Christmas, we keep the Spirit of Christ. There is no better time for us than now to rededicate ourselves to the cause of Jesus Christ. As we strive to serve others and become more like Christ, we will have joy and happiness in our lives and peace each day of the year.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, I know firsthand of President Monson's own example of Christlike service when he came to visit me at my sister Amy's wedding reception after I had had lung surgery. President Monson spends so much of his time serving, visiting, and caring about others. He truly is a man of God. I love him and want to be more like him. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas season!



Definitely somebody to look up to.