Sunday, September 30, 2012

A light shining in darkness...

Joseph Smith in a grove of trees
What does a young man do when he gets conflicting information regarding his faith? To some, as in my case, you try not to dwell on it and move on with your life with the hope that at some point this fundamental question will be answered. Others might approach it from another perspective and actively seek to find out what the truth is behind these matters. Such was the case with a young boy by the name of Joseph Smith, Jr.

As a young teenager, in upstate New York, Joseph and his family were exposed to a religious revival. Different denominations were vying  for new members in what was the frontier of the United States at the time. Several members of Joseph's family had joined a particular religion and Joseph was feeling pressure to make a decision regarding what his choice would be. It is hard for me to fathom how intense the pressure may have been for him. It would have been very easy for him to choose the faith of his mother and follow in her footsteps. Thousands, if not millions, do that today.
     "I was born (fill in faith here); I was raised (fill in faith here); and
      I will die (fill in faith here)."

 Fortunately that wasn't drummed into mine, or my brothers’, heads as we grew up. It was the same with Joseph Smith. In his time the Holy Bible was not only a source of inspiration, from a spiritual perspective, but also used to teach people to read. Joseph, while growing up, was very familiar with the Bible. It was during this period of revival which found the young Joseph pondering about what was occurring around him. In his words he said:

   “My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and              incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists,  and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others. In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?” (Joseph Smith History 1:9-10) 

It is not uncommon to find in the scriptures instances in which a young man is called on to do extraordinary things. David, the youngest of several brothers, was one example of being called of God at young age. This can be found in 1 Samuel 16: 5-13. Another example, found in 1 Samuel 3 (entire chapter), is when the prophet Samuel is called as a child.

Joseph Smith was also young, about 14 years old, when all this was happening around him. One night he read a scripture from the New Testament that rang true in his heart. It was in the Epistle of James:

     "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally,
     and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." (James 1:5)

He took this scripture to heart. Shortly after reading this scripture he went to a secluded place in the woods to ask Heavenly Father which church he should join. What followed was extraordinary.  In Joseph's words:

     "So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods 
     to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the 
     spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had 
     made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the 
     attempt to pray vocally....I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the 
     brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me...When the 
     light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all 
     description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me
     by name and said, pointing to the other-- This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!"
Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ
appearing to Joseph Smith
     (Joseph Smith-History 1:14-17)

Here, in a matter of minutes, the confusion that surrounded the nature of God and Jesus Christ was cleared. My question regarding "3 in 1" was answered. Heavenly Father is a personage, similar in nature to that of His Son, Jesus. He isn't a spirit. He isn't some undefined entity of some mysterious sorts. 

Even more extraordinary to me was that He called Joseph by name!! He is a loving, Heavenly Father who knows His children- by name. Isn't that amazing?

Next....Article 2...


Friday, September 28, 2012

We believe... Article 1

"We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost."

This answers one of the fundamental questions that I had when I was growing up. The concept of  "3 in 1" befuddled me (it's not very often that one can use the word 'befuddled' during the course of the day).

The Old Testament teaches somewhat on the concept of oneness as Adam speaks in Chapter 2 of Genesis about "...leav(ing) his  father and his mother, and shall cleave cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." (v 24) Although Adam and Eve were two distinct persons they were to become 'one flesh'- united.

Jesus in Gethsemane
The New Testament contains numerous scriptures in which the concept of 'one' or unity is taught. An excellent example can be found in the seventeenth chapter of John. As background: this is the night that Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane where He prays to Heavenly Father regarding those who have served with Him. If He and Heavenly Father were literally 'one' would there be a need for Him to pray to Himself? The Savior speaks of this oneness (unity) in verse 11:
     "And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world;
      and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name      
      those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are 
      one." (emphasis mine)

To me this implies unity.

What other items point to distinct, separate beings? Again in the New Testament one can read about the baptism of the Savior. The Gospel of Matthew records the event in Matthew 3 verses 16 and 17:
      "And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and lo, the heavens were
       opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
       And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

When a simple man as I reads something like this in the scriptures it appears plain and easy to understand. So as I grew up it wasn't surprising that I was confused when I read those scriptures, and others teaching the same things, and then being taught during religious instruction that there was only one person but somehow all three were within one entity.

As I have read about Jesus's church, following His death, I found it interesting that what was taught was three distinct beings or entities. It wasn't until after the apostles' deaths did this specific doctrine start to change and become affected by the pressure of outside forces.

Next... a light shining in darkness...


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

We believe....

John Wentworth
Why do I find it true? It answered fundamental questions that I had as a youth which then carried over into young adulthood. Such questions regarding the Trinity (God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost), prophets, marriage, priesthood and why in heaven's name did the Lord stop talking to people after the time of Christ. Simple questions that were not being adequately answered by the faith of my youth. I won't elaborate, at this time, how my questions were answered by co-workers and then close friends.

What I would like to do is share, in a small series, what the first prophet of this era, Joseph Smith, Jr., shared in March of 1842. Shortly before this Joseph Smith was asked by the editor of the Chicago Democrat, John Wentworth, to give a brief history of the founding and rise of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The reply that Joseph sent back to Mr. Wentworth has come to be known by Latter-Day Saints as the "Wentworth Letter."

At the very end of the letter he shared the tenets of our faith with Mr. Wentworth. These thirteen points are now known by Latter-Day Saints as the "The Articles of Faith" and are part of our basic scriptures. I would like to share these on this blog over the course of the next week or so. I will try to add some explanatory notes as I see necessary. More to the point I will add notes as to how they answered some of the basic questions that I had as I grew up.

Tomorrow, the Trinity...


Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Metro Manila, Philippines taken from our 12th floor condo
So why do two people leave a comfortable and spacious suburban home in central Indiana to move to a sprawling metropolis and downsize to about 200 square feet? As Marcia and I have talked over the years we thought that we could probably live in a city the size of Chicago- it has a real lake and at least one decent baseball team (go SOX!). We could never have imagined that we would end up exactly half way around the world in metro Manila, Philippines.

So... why? Contrary to popular opinion (I'm just saying that- not sure what popular opinion is on this) we do not get paid for the time that we are here. In fact, for the most part, we (with the help of family members) are footing the bill for our stay here. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) does not have a paid clergy. Those that lead local congregations are volunteers who work a regular job to pay their bills while putting in 20-40 hours a week in providing service to their local congregations called wards. Their are approximately 55,000 missionaries serving around the world. They do not get paid for the work that they do but still they willingly serve for a period of eighteen months to two years. Several hundred, if not several thousand, serve a mission contrary to what their family would have them do. Some are disowned. Senior missionaries leave families behind and, normally, grandchildren. Milestone events are missed- births, baptisms, graduations, weddings, and funerals. So.....why?

We do so because we know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored; that prophets are again on the earth to share with and instruct us regarding revelation from God. We do so because it is true...


Friday, September 21, 2012

Traveling, Food, and Daughters

Travel can be an exciting adventure. You are never sure who you will sit by and where the topic of conversation will go...if there is conversation. As would have it on my journey back from Salt Lake I needed to travel east before I headed west. Thus the first leg of my trip was to the motor city- Detroit.

Kasi in her kitchen
I had the opportunity to sit next to a couple who had just spent several days traveling around Yellowstone and other areas of interest. They were traveling back home which was now Toronto. I was seated next to the woman who had a an accent of some type of which I was not familiar with. I asked her where she was originally from. She told me that she was originally from Russia.

Bri in Kasi's kitchen
Somehow the topic of conversation got to cooking. I have no idea how that came about, but I know that it did. The woman mentioned that her daughter liked to hear where her and her husband went to eat on their vacations. She also mentioned that her daughter didn't like to cook but did love to eat and experience new things. This brought up the topic of daughters and how my daughters, actually, are pretty good cooks. This is surprising both to Marcia and I as for the most part as they were growing up the kitchen wasn't a favorite stomping ground with the exception of Bri when it came to baking. Bri was our baker and when it came to experimenting and the like, Brig was more of an experimenter than the girls were. What a surprise when I was in Salt Lake to see how well our girls do when it comes to the culinary arts! Kasi made a
cake that was delicious and Bri's baking skills are still very good!! It is easy to say that the 10 pounds that I had lost just prior to heading back to the states was quickly put back on before I came back here to the Philippines. The immigration and customs people didn't look twice at my passport and then back at me as they did when I left the Philippines last week. Thank heavens my passport picture and me look alike again....jsf

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Lord's Emissaries (part 1)

Elders and Sister recovering from variety of illnesses at the MRC
It is a privilege to serve a mission. As written in previous posts there are many areas of service that senior couples are involved in. This post isn't about senior missionaries. It is about the younger missionaries- the ones people normally associated with when asked what a Mormon missionary is.

Elders at Provo, MTC heading to the Philippines
Some background. Young men who grow up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are expected to take two years of their life and serve a full time mission for the Church somewhere around the world. Anytime after the age of 19 is when a young man can submit his request to serve a mission for the Church. When they submit their paperwork they have no idea where or when they will leave for this mission. Why 19? What makes that the marker for a young man? The easiest way to respond to that, and perhaps the most correct, is that is the age, through revelation, in which the Lord has made known to the leaders of the Church.

Young women also serve missions for the Church. Their age requirement is a little higher beginning at 21. One major difference between the young men and the young women serving is that their isn't the same emphasis or expectation of young women to serve missions as there is on young men.

Currently there are over 50,000 missionaries from all over the world serving in 350 missions. The pictures that are shown are ones that I have taken over the last few months...jsf

Monsoon/Typhoon rain displaced Sisters waiting to help
create food kits, clothing and hygiene kits

Elders and Sisters from Mongolia on last day at Manila,
MTC before there return to Mongolia

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Kas in her kitchen
Just a quick note to say hello and farewell to SLC. It has been great to be back for a short period of time but I miss my gorgeous bride and can't wait to get back to her. In the mean time I have been blessed to have spent four wonderful days with our children in Taylorsville. It is always exciting to see how they are doing and how they are growing.

Josh relaxing at Kasi's

Bri in Kas's kitchen

Bri and WIlliam

Josh and Kas at Kasi's
Remember this is a personal blog so thus I will indulge and share some pictures of the kids. Tomorrow at 8:30 SLC time I'm on my way to Detroit and then back to Manila...jsf

Thursday, September 13, 2012

In Salt Lake

Just a quick note and an apology. Last week Marcia and were very busy in one of the missions on Luzon Island. We knew prior to our going on our mission that there may be occasions in which such things might happen. We also knew ahead of time that at some point we might have to travel back to another country for a medical reasons not of our own. On Wednesday morning- Manila time- I boarded a plane to head back to Salt Lake City, Utah. An apology because of how busy we have been we haven't been current on our blog. I will try and keep it updated as best as I can. This time around, unfortunately, was unforeseeable.

I had a very safe flight and am currently staying at my daughter's home. It will be a busy few days as I came with an empty suitcase to fill- it is Christmas season already in the Philippines (time for another blog). The other reason is that there is no Walmart in the Philippines. Marcia continues to stay busy in Manila and I will be leaving on Monday morning to join her again...jsf

Monday, September 10, 2012

Alive and well in Angeles

Part of Marcia's responsibility here is to be on call for all the mission presidents in the area and respond when emergencies occur. Our first emergency happened last Thursday night. Since Friday morning we have been in the Angeles mission. The mission office and the mission president's residence is located on an old American Air Force base that is called Clark Airforce Base. It is an absolutely gorgeous area.

Life has been exciting here but I'll leave that at that. The exciting thing about this experieince is that I have a road trip beginning tomorrow with a an Elder here. We are heading back to Salt Lake tomorrow. I'm pretty much like my dog Harli when it comes to road trips... open the rear window, let me hang my head out and wag my tongue and I'll be fine...


Wednesday, September 5, 2012


When Marcia and I were in the MTC one of the couples that was in our district had previously served two other missions. They were with us during the Preach My Gospel portion of the MTC and then the following week at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake as we received special training as some type of medical missionaries. As most know Marcia is serving as the Philippines Area Mental Health Adviser. Sister Wallace and her husband were called to serve in the Vanuatu mission as the Vanuatu mission nurse. Elder Wallace was called to serve as her assistant.

Sister Akram and Rex (Rex is the tech guy for the medical department)
The first mission that they were called to as a couple was to Pakistan. That was exciting just to hear that they had missionaries in Pakistan. I'm not sure if they were the first missionaries to serve in Pakistan but I would imagine that they were among those who were first to serve. I bring this up because this afternoon I had the opportunity to pick up a sister missionary from one of the local hospitals. From my understanding she had been in the hospital for about two weeks fighting and recovering from pneumonia. Her name is Sister Akram and she is from Pakistan serving a full time mission in the Manila mission.

As we were waiting for her to be discharged she was able to tell me some of her conversion and that of some of her family. She has been a member of the Church for 4 years. Her uncle and 'auntie' were the ones that introduced her to the Church. She called them pioneers. Her uncle's and aunt's names are Malcolm and Nasrene King. From our short conversation she informed me that, if she remembered correctly, that her uncle had been baptized in England. When they returned to Pakistan they taught Sunday school. They did so by translating the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants a chapter at a time. The chapter that they translated would be the one that they taught that week. Truly this is a pioneer family and a pioneer sister missionary. As we continued to talk she told me that she had an older sister that was also a member of the Church and also had served in the Philippines in 2006.

I was very impressed with Sister Akram. Her goal is to have the rest of her family join the Church at some point. She told me that her family is Catholic (a surprise to me as she is from Pakistan) and she would love to  see them all as members of the Church. What a great goal for a worthy Sister missionary...


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Blogs of note- being Senior Missionaries

As some of you may notice on the side of these posts are various items that I have placed on this blog. One of the items that I have placed there are blogs that I have found interesting and feel that others might find them equally interesting.

Being senior missionaries is fun, exciting, challenging, and in some cases, not easy. When you see others out in the field you wonder how they did it? what did they leave behind to serve the Lord? were they still working when they left to serve or were they retired. All types are here. Marcia and I had the chance to visit the San Pablo mission a few weeks ago. We were their on assignment from the legal department and were being escorted by the San Pablo mission president and his wife- President and Sister Petersen. As we spent the day and evening with them we learned that they had been active farmers in Arizona. President Petersen was/is a cotton farmer. Currently his farm is being  watched over by his neighbors. When their mission is complete they will return to farming.

One of the blogs listed is from Elder and Sister Hadlock. They are humanitarian missionaries currently in charge of wheel chair distribution here in the Philippines. They have a number of pictures and stories of interest. The video that had been playing on this blog over the weekend was of Elder Hadlock and some of the recipients of the wheel chairs.

I just added a blog that will be on this site for a short period of time. It is the blog of Elder and Sister Bird. They have been in the Philippines for almost two years now. They are scheduled to leave at the beginning of October. Their assignment has been working in the Public Affairs office. With that assignment has come many opportunities for them to meet some very interesting people. It also has put them in a position to see the church continue to rise out of obscurity here in the Philippines. If you get the chance to view their blog do so and I recommend you look at their older blogs as they have been around the country and have seen many different things...


Monday, September 3, 2012

Food (Soap box warning!!!)

Goat outside on street next to San Pablo Mission Home

Seafood counter at Robinson's Market
 I suppose at some time it is necessary to eat food. Some of us prefer to eat more often than others. Others have a tough time eating. Anyone who may be reading or watching the media in the United States might get the idea that there is a crisis of 'obesity' occurring. Just as an observational note- although the Philippines is not a wealthy country it does have its share of people who are of a 'stouter' nature.

With all the excess weight that is accumulating does that mean that we are 'weighing' the earth down more? and possibly slowing it down? Although it is not a theory that I advocate I do believe it is one aspect of global warming- if you agree with that theory that has not been addressed. Sure people pick the obvious and say that gas emissions, coal emissions, refrigerants and the like are the cause of old mother earth warming up. Any one can say that- in fact according to the media it's a done deal global warming is not a theory but a fact. I have a tendency not to quite believe what SOME scientists are theorizing and lean towards the facts that the earth is old and there are natural events and cycles that occur. I believe that man shows his arrogant and prideful side when he thinks that by his living his lifestyle the earth will be dramatically changed in a detrimental way. I remember the 1970s when global cooling was the criers voice and the headlines in news magazines.

I did warn all readers that I was on a soap box. If you have gotten this far good for you because now comes the interesting and bold new theory that I am proposing. Is it possible that due to the 'obesity' epidemic that is occurring around the world that the earth is actually slowing down because of the excess weight that people have? What happens when people get over weight? They slow down- everyone has seen this occur. What happens when you put overweight people into cars? The cars slow down. It is a natural law (somewhere). Since I have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt regarding my 'global slowing' theory I will need to demonstrate how it dovetails and is the cause for our planets temperature rise. Naturally, naturally, when things slow down, especially when exposed to sun light, they heat up faster. If an ice cube is exposed for 1 second in the sun it doesn't melt much. If you were  to leave that same ice cube out for 5 minutes it will no longer be an ice cube but, instead, it will be a puddle. Because the earth is slowing down because of our 'obesity' epidemic our exposure to the sun is much longer and thus the earth is temporarily heating up. Temporarily? Of course. Once people recognize that overeating is causing overheating they will naturally, naturally, want to lose weight, close McDonalds, banish soft drinks and junk food from schools, ban transfats from New York City, and demonize movie popcorn around the world (wait- don't they already do that?).

Remember I did issue a soap box warning at the top of the post.....