Sunday, May 31, 2009

The End of an Era

Earlier today, our ward held its annual conference. All three members of our stake presidency attended and taught us about the temple, and several other stake leaders also came to share messages with us.

Ward conference really is one of those three-hour blocks that I look forward to all year. It's always great to receive instruction from our stake leaders, and it's really the one time of the year that we get to sustain all of our Church officers, from President Monson on down to the local level, with a raise of the right hand.

In addition to the other goings-on of ward conference, I was (finally) released as one of the ward Family History instructors in sacrament meeting, having spent more than 2½ years in the calling.

I'll admit it: This event came as a great burden being lifted off of my shoulders - not because I haven't enjoyed it or because I don't like to do Family History work, but because the scope of the work to be done and all of the many aspects, techniques, and strategies of doing the work have been rather challenging to try to learn for myself, let alone to teach to others. It was definitely one of the hardest callings I have had.

At the same time, I have learned so much and have gained such an apprecation for Family History and temple work and those who dedicate their lives to it. It is truly one of the greatest things we can do for people on both sides of the veil.

Since change was in the air, I suppose, I also received a home teaching transfer today. After getting to home teach with my good friend and Improvables colleague Ryan for more than a year, he has been sent off to a new companionship. I guess the brass figured that we were doing something right and decided to give us new opportunities for growth.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Hope Ya Know, We Had a Hard Time"

I don't usually post links to YouTube videos here on the Epistle unless they directly include me, family members, or friends. But this message by Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles - one of my dad's friends from college, to boot - affected me deeply, and I wanted to share it with those who may not yet have seen it. If you are not yet subscribed to Mormon Messages, I would invite you to do so.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

When 2:30 (Tooth Hurty) Strikes . . .

Today, I am very grateful for dentists.

Memorial Day weekend is not an ideal time to get a toothache. Come to think of it, no time is a good time for anything of the sort. Alas, that is what happened to me over the holiday weekend, but I survived.

Fortunately, I have a great dentist, and he was able to squeeze me in to see him yesterday morning to have the thing looked at and fixed. After three X-ray attempts, after which I must have been glowing in the dark due to the radiation, the problem was pinpointed: I had a fractured incisor.

That's a spicy meatball!

Even as adult, I detest going to the dentist, and I will do whatever I can to avoid doing so. Thankfully, the staff at my dentist's office do their best to make it as painless an experience as possible.

Also, the nitrous oxide is always a funky experience.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Soul of Wit - or the Pursuit Thereof

Over the weekend, I chatted with a friend, and the subject turned to blogging. She mentioned that she had not yet read my blog but that she had heard that I always wrote "extremely long posts."

I respectfully disagree.

Friday, May 22, 2009

When Jerks Attack . . .

Case Study # 1. A young LDS girl meets and falls in love with a young LDS man. They enjoy a happy marriage, except for the fact that he begins to abuse her emotionally - and in other ways, without going into too many details. She tells him about the effect that his behavior is having on her self-esteem, and he doesn't even realize that he's doing it. Worse, he continues to do it. Currently, they are separated.

Case Study # 2. A young LDS girl meets a recent convert to the Church who is male. After a whirlwind courtship, during which he demonstrates that he has supposedly turned his life around, they are married, with the goal of reaching the temple a year later when he is eligible to do so. Not long after their union, however, he begins to spend all of her money and forces her to declare for bankruptcy. He bails on the relationship, too, showing that the whole thing was just a con.

What these two stories have in common is that (a) they are both true, (b) they both happened to friends of mine, (c) I learned of both sad stories during the past week, and (d) both stories involved abuses of one kind of another committed by absolute jerks.

Jerks are my least-favorite people in the world to be around. You don't have to look to hard to find them, because they will make themselves known one way or another by their boorish, outlandish, idiotic behavior.

I feel awful for my two friends who have suffered through these much-undeserved injustices, which were the result of hidden agendas they could not have possibly foreseen during the courtship process.

Having said that, I can't help but observe quite often that so many jerks do not suffer from a lack of female companionship.

Why is this?

One school of thought is that jerks, with their pompousness, also carry a lot of confidence, and that is something that is attractive to women.

Another school of thought is that there are women who see the jerk side in men and then strive to "change" them.

Absolutely true story: I watched a TV movie not long ago, during which a female psychologist, at a news conference, spoke about the tendency of women to fall in love with convicted murderers. The reason this phenomenon occurs, she said, is that these women feel like they're the only ones who understand these men.

After watching this program, I commented to my brother, who was not dating anyone at the time - and neither was I - that there were convicted murderers in the world who had more women interested in them than either of us did.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Free at Last!

I have some great news!

No, I did not just save a bunch of money on my car insurance by switching to GEICO, though some of you probably were thinking that. With the paycheck I received today, I was able to pay off the last of my existing debts, and I am now 100 percent debt free.

The reasons why I was in debt are not important - they aren't uncommon reasons, really. Suffice me to say that they are now a thing of the past!

These words from Pres. J. Reuben Clark Jr. often caused me to lose sleep at night:

"Interest never sleeps nor sickens nor dies; it never goes to the hospital; it works on Sundays and holidays; it never takes a vacation. . . . Once in debt, interest is your companion every minute of the day and night; you cannot shun it or slip away from it; you cannot dismiss it; it yields neither to entreaties, demands, or orders; and whenever you get in its way or cross its course or fail to meet its demands, it crushes you."

No more! It's a great feeling.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Staying on the Straight and Narrow

Earlier this week, I had a rather saddening experience. I was surfing through Facebook - as so many of us are wont to do - when I came across something that had been posted on the site by a good friend and former mission companion of mine. It was not so much what he said but the language he used to say it that caught my attention. Suffice to say that he used some rather colorful, non-missionary language - to say the least - in his post.

Later that same day, I came across something else that this former companion of mine had written. This time, his comments told of the beer he had just consumed and his picks for his "five best beers."

It did not take me long to discover that he has gone totally inactive in the Church.

I was shocked and disappointed. How could someone who I worked side by side with for all of those months have fallen so far? I wondered. How could a person who had given his life to serve the Church given up on it?

Since this little incident, I have done quite a bit of pondering about the "straight and narrow path" that is discussed in the scriptures and the reasons why so many people wander off of it. Some of the questions that I have tried to answer include:

What kinds of things am I doing to make sure that this doesn't happen to me? Just how converted am I to the gospel? Is it enough to pray and read the scriptures every day and attend Sunday meetings? Or do we have to be even stronger than that?

Your comments and thoughts on this issue, if you would like to share any, would be much appreciated.

In the meantime, I am including my former companion in my prayers, and I will write his name on the temple roll later this week when I visit. I have faith that he will remember the good person he was and still is - though he seems to have forgotten it for now - and return to the Church someday.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Word about Mothers . . .

Since today is Mothers' Day, and well-deserved tributes to mothers all across the country are being given, what can I possibly say about my own mother that will do any kind of justice to her?

In a word, she is amazing.

I think Abraham Lincoln said it best:

All that I am or hope to be I owe to my angel mother. I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.

She has taught me more about selflessness and sacrifice - in addition to dozens of other virtues - than anyone else.

When I was in the sixth grade, none of the fathers of the boys on my soccer team volunteered to coach. So, Mom stepped up and volunteered. How many boys can say that about their moms?

At the time, being an 11-year-old kid, I initially allowed myself to be embarrassed by this. But when I look back on her courage, I have the deepest respect and love for her efforts.

By the way, she led us to a second-place finish in our division.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

"Idol" Worship - Utah County Style

A shameless plug goes out today for my Improvables colleague Bryan Dayley's musical "American Fork Idol," which is currently playing at the Desert Star Theater in Murray. A couple of friends and I attended a matinee performance of the show earlier today, and we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

"American Fork Idol" is yet another well-written and very funny production by the folks at Desert Star. There are the expected jabs at past and present "American Idol" judges and contestants (for example, there are characters such as the dimwitted Jason Castor Oil and the elderly Taylor Hiccups) as well as the usual jokes about and parodies of Utah culture and customs.

If you've never been to Desert Star, then you are missing out on one of the greatest theatrical experiences to be had in the Salt Lake valley.

The show plays through June 6.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Swine Flu Strikes!

Sadly, the swine flu has now claimed a celebrity victim.

We all know who's to blame.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Soft Answer

Flattery will get you everywhere with me.

What does that mean, exactly? you ask? Basically, I am a sucker for compliments. I may not get them as often as, say, Paula Abdul gives them out, but when I do, I can very easily be put on the spot and become a little red in the cheeks.

Such was the case Friday night after our Improvables show, when a teenage girl came up to me and told me that I was her "favorite" performer and that she "loved" me - in a platonic, friendly way, of course.

It's always nice to hear things like that after a show. In fact, they really make your day. For one thing, they let you know that you must be doing something right, as self-conscious as one can get while trying to do Improv and making a nincompoop out of oneself in front of dozens, if not hundreds, of people. Many of my fellow Improvers have told me that they, too, have often received compliments along these same lines after our shows.

How much nicer would our society be if we all complimented each other more often? That's a rhetorical question, so I don't necessarily expect any comments on it - but I think you catch my drift.

Giving out compliments is one of the things I admire most about females, because they do it so often and so well. It's definitely one of the ways in which I need to improve in my interactions with other people.

A few years ago, when the ComedySportz branch in Sugar House was still operating, I attended a training session that was led by three full-time Improvisers from the Los Angeles branch of the club. During one activity, we were each asked to go around the room, shake hands with each one of our colleagues, look them in the eyes, and give them each one compliment. They, in turn, would offer a compliment back to us.

What ensued was one of the neatest Improv experiences I have ever been party to. People who I had never seen act anything but goofy and silly soon broke down in tears of joy. Because everyone who participated in the activity did so with sincerity and honesty, it was an edifying experience for all involved. I learned a lot of things about a lot of people that day. I also learned that it was much harder for me to take compliments than to give them.

I think the scripture states it well:

Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.

Romans 14:19