Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I have been weighed on the scales and found wanting

Today on my way to work I came across a dead man.

I take the FrontRunner train to work in the mornings, get off at the Salt Lake Central Station and usually take the Trax commuter rail in to my office that sits on 2nd South and Main, but some days I walk. Today I walked. About a block past the Gateway Shopping Center on 2nd South I saw a body lying motionless. My first impression was that it might be some sort of mannequin or dummy. It’s early for Halloween decorations, but thoughts of the scarecrows my dad used to make and place on our front porch for trick-or-treaters came to mind. As I drew closer I realized it definitely was not a decoration. It was a man, late sixties, unshaven, in a black t-shirt and red flannel shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes.

I wanted to keep walking.

I’m not proud of it, quite frankly I’m ashamed of it, but it was my first impulse.

I didn’t keep walking. I stopped; spoke to him to see if he would respond. I felt his hand; it was still warm. I felt briefly for a pulse but didn’t find one. I called 911.
Police showed up about the time I got off the phone with 911. He first tried to get a response from the man. When he didn’t get one he put on his gloves and started checking pockets for medical information and identification. He found an inhaler in the man’s right shirt pocket and cigarettes in the left. Found a large wallet in his rear pant pocket full of cards but no cash.
The first responders then arrived and hooked up what I assume to be an EKG to his chest. They asked how long I’d been there, which by this time had been about ten minutes, and then took out a sheet to cover the man.

I don’t know CPR. I learned it when I was 14 and again when I was 16, but I haven’t been refreshed since. Had it been someone I knew and loved I probably would have tried, but given the circumstances I felt afraid, confused, and mostly just totally powerless. What shames me is the fact that when I realized the man was dead, I was relieved I didn’t know CPR. I should have at least wanted to be able to help the man, but instead I was relieved I didn’t have that responsibility. Now that I’ve had time to reflect, I’m sickened by this.
I don’t know what the proper protocol should be in that situation. The man had been there for at least five minutes or I would have seen him fall. He probably hadn’t been there for more than 15, I assume, because someone else probably would have spotted him. Also he still felt rather warm when I checked his pulse. I don’t really know if it would have been advisable to perform CPR even if I were competent, but that’s not really the point. What scares me is that I found out this morning that when it comes down to it my fear is greater than my desire to help. I think of myself as someone who wants to help those around him, but when it came down to it I didn’t only lack the ability to help but also the desire. I'm not exactly a hurried Levite, but I also don't qualify as a Good Samaritan.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

When do we become irrelevant?

A couple months ago I was listening to Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, the newest album from 1980s Punk band Social Distortion. I loved the sound. Mike Ness did what I had imagined impossible: make an album that is a good fusion of folk/country with punk.
Of course it’s not exactly as if this were the first time Ness has done this. It’s kind of what he does. It just amazes me every time that it can be done.
At any rate, I really enjoyed the album. It is an album that is very easy to listen from beginning to end – an attribute that I appreciate. It has sounds reminiscent of older Rolling Stones, especially the tracks that feature female backup singers. It is fun and it feels real.
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I attended High School in rural northern Utah. It was a backwards place, where in the end years of the 90s it was still common to hear people listening to Guns n’ Roses, Bon Jovi, Metallica, Def Leppard, and even Poison. Sometimes I was one of those people.
In 1996 Def Leppard came out with a new sound album – Slang. It was awful. It had no heart, it had no soul. It was full of trite lyrics and heavier bass lines. The band tried to repent and in 1999 they came out with an album that was a return to form – Euphoria. It was worse: More trite lyrics on top of guitar riffs that were 10 years out of place. It was completely and helplessly irrelevant.
In 1997 Metallica released Reload (I actually like Load . . . I know, I know . . . but I’m going to leave it alone just the same). It wasn’t their old music and it wasn’t good – weaker guitar riffs, less screaming, more guttural non-singing. Then in 2003 they came out with their newer sound – St. Anger. Oh my hell how did that abomination happen? It is completely un-listen-to-able: Light on the bass drum, heavy on the cowbell . . . even more useless guttural non-singing, songs that drift from one idea to the next without definition and completely without reason. Irrelevant.
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Today on my way to work I streamed Foo Fighters new album Wasting Light. It’s good. I have only listened to the first handful of tracks, but it starts like a Foo Fighters’ album should – heavy and loud. It then drifts between hard rock anthems and rock ballads. It is heavy but optimistic.
The horrific thought occurs to me. There were die-hard fans of Def Leppard that loved Slang and Euphoria. There existed aficionados of anything-Metallica that would actually claim St. Anger was good – and hold a straight face while they said it.
Have my musical tastes become helplessly irrelevant?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Our Engagement Story

About six months before I came home from my mission I got a letter from A (my previous girlfriend, at the time of my mission "friend", and now and forever wife). It informed me that her mother was hoping I would extend. She wasn't ready for me to come home yet. This here is what we accomplished writers refer to as "foreshadowing".

Before my mission I dated A. That in itself is a long epic journey that will be told another time. We had some great stories. We went skydiving in Vegas for her birthday. We went to Malibu a couple weeks before I left. We were skiing/snowboarding and wakeboarding buddies.
As I was leaving I told her that I wanted her to date other guys. I didn't want her waiting for me (and I knew she probably wouldn't exactly "wait" for me anyway). But I did want to date her again if she were still single when I got home. Turns out she pretty much had the same idea in mind.
We wrote the whole time I was gone. She even drove to my parent’s house to say hi to me on the telephone on Mother's Day and Christmas.

I hadn't told A when I would be coming home. She obviously knew more or less the month, but I wanted to surprise her. I got released, took a shower, threw on some cologne, borrowed my parent's Expedition, and drove over to Logan. I stopped by Chili's where she was waitressing, and luckily for both of us she wasn't working that night. I called her mom to get her address and headed to her house. I knocked on the door, heard some talking and some giggling, and C (A's sister/roommate) opened the door, screams, and slams the door. Three seconds later the door burst open to more screaming, and A pretty much tackled me.

Things moved quickly for A and me. We were in love and we loved being together. Both of us had imagined we would be at least 25, if not older, before we ever thought about marriage. We were both independent people, and very much enjoyed being single. But conversations quickly turned to marriage, and then things got ugly fast.
C was the first to turn to "the dark side" writing A a five page letter about how she thought A was spending too much time with me, and how she wasn't the same person she used to be (three months can really change a person). She doesn't "have a good feeling" about me.
Her family started forming a united front against me. This was particularly difficult since I was living in Los Angeles going to school, and sometimes distance does not, in fact, make the heart grow stronger.
Rumors started to circulate. A's sisters got word that my best friend D had made the comment "If Brandon ever tried to marry my sister, there is no way I would let him." She, being proactive, decided to verify this with D, and got the response "Are you kidding me, I love B. I'd be thrilled if he wanted to marry my sister." A's sisters got word that my own sister said that she thought that A was too good for me and deserved better. Again she decided to verify, and found out that my sister had said nothing like that and thought I was indeed a good person. I didn’t know about any of this at the time.

In the meantime, I moved back to Utah for the summer. I started looking at diamonds and setting some money aside. We had already spent some time looking at rings months before, and I had a pretty good idea what she wanted. I wanted to do something more personal, so when I found the right diamond at the right price (in the ugliest setting I'd ever seen), I had my uncle the jeweler cut it out of the setting. And we went to work designing a more appropriate setting. I drew pictures and he molded wax. After it was cast, he spent a day hammering the diamond into place (he was much more experienced with opal than diamond, but he learned as he went). It turned out, in my opinion, perfect.

It started to become more and more apparent to me that A’s family didn’t like me. She talked about it, and sometimes cried about it. I decided to talk to her mom to try and get a pulse of the situation. During our conversation she informed me that she had prayed about us being together, and didn’t feel it was right.
Being a recently returned missionary, this baffled me. I was a good person. A was a good person. We were very much in love, and had known each other by this point for over five years. We felt good about marriage and it didn’t seem like we were rushing into anything. I even felt I had received spiritual confirmation. Sadly, family approval was a very important factor for A. She loved her family and felt that their input should be seriously considered. So we slowed down and I tried to give her time to think about it.
Weeks passed, even a couple months, and we were still inseparable. We not only loved being together, we loved doing things together. I decided it was time to go for it.

At the time I was very traditional. I still am a conservative person to some degree, but much less so than I was the first year after my mission. I felt it was important, as a show of respect, to ask her father’s blessing before proposing. I had a proposal all figured out. We were going to go on a drive to the top of Willard Peak, eat a picnic dinner, and I would propose as the sun set, looking down from Inspiration Point. It was a Saturday and I ran into her father at the gym that we both went to. I asked if I could come by his house and talk to him. He said yes.
I stopped by around noon and we sat in the front room of their house, no one else was home. I explained that I was very much in love with his daughter and wanted to propose to her. He said no. I was very taken aback. I tried to ask why he disapproved of us being together. I was going to college (a fairly well respected one, at that). I was rather independent, a hard worker, religious, a returned missionary, and I treated his daughter with love and respect. . .
I came to find out that afternoon, over the course of an hour and amid a heated monologue laced with expletives, that I was in fact a disrespectful, wild, arrogant, oversexed jerk. That when he came to my homecoming a year earlier that he at no time felt the spirit while I spoke. He told me that their family didn’t like me at all and he couldn’t understand why I would want to be part of a family that didn’t want me. He told me that his 22 year old daughter was far too young to be married, and that we were immature and na├»ve. He told me that A was not the same person she used to be, and that I was manipulative and I was changing A, and the family didn’t like that. Somewhere near an hour into this “discussion” A came home to find us talking. Quickly realized what was happening and that it was not going well, and ran out of the house crying. Her dad looked at me and said something to the effect “see what you did?”
I left angry, hurt, and devastated. I knew they didn’t really like me, but it hadn’t occurred to me until this point just how much they hated me. Looking back I realize that it was mostly fear. A being the oldest daughter, and in many ways the glue that held the family together, was something they weren’t ready to lose. I being a strong willed, intelligent, dry-humored person was not who they expected to lose her to, either. But I didn’t see this at the time; I just felt the rejection and the anger. I went home and my dad could easily read the emotions on my face. I said “can we go shoot something?” He grabbed his Kimber 1911, a couple magazines, and some cans and we headed up Rocky Dugway to a clearing. I was too angry to even put in earplugs and I shot through some hundred rounds while I explained everything to my dad. I couldn’t hear very well for a week after due to the ringing in my ears, but I was calmed down. We drove home. Soon A showed up at my house, still looking distressed. We went downstairs and started to talk when my dad came in and said they wanted to discuss some things with us. My parents sat us down and explained how much they loved A, how they thought we were great together, and how they would support us no matter what we chose to do. They took us out to dinner and we talked for a couple more hours. Then we went back to my parents house and A and I went down to my bedroom, sat down on the bed, and both passed out from emotional exhaustion. We woke back up around 2 am, I got out the flowers I had bought for her, got down on one knee, and proposed. Looking back I probably should have waited. Neither of us were in the right mindset and we were both confused and exhausted. She said yes. We were engaged. The next morning my parents congratulated us and I got ready for work while A went home.

That engagement lasted 3 days. She never told her parents she was engaged, and she broke up with me and gave the ring back with tears streaming down her face. I bought a motorcycle I had passed up (trying to be more responsible, preparing for marriage) the next day and felt a little better.

Two weeks passed and we didn’t see each other or even talk to each other. I was mostly miserable, and spent a lot of time sleeping and watching TV.
Finally July 1st, I had to talk to her. It’d been too long. I called her to see how she was doing. She’d been pretty depressed herself. I asked if she had any plans for the fourth, she said she was going to the fireworks with her family at USU on the second. I was going with my friends as well. I asked if she wanted to meet up afterword. She very much wanted to.
After the fireworks I found her and we walked to the parking lot. I introduced her to my new two-wheeled best friend. She wanted to go for a ride. I gave her my helmet and we headed to Bear Lake.
July tends to be a warm month in Utah. That is until you reach altitudes around 6000 feet after midnight. Then it can be a little frigid when you’re traveling 70 mph, even with leathers on. We were cold by the time we got to Bear Lake. We sat on the shore, watched the moon, and just talked. We laughed a lot that night, it was the first time either of us felt like laughing in two weeks. We were friends again.
In some ways that motorcycle ride saved our relationship. In some ways it was the smartest thing I ever did and it is a treasured memory.
In other ways, it was probably the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. By the time we decided that we either needed to find a place to stay or head home it was freezing and all the hotels were closed. We should have waited until the sun came up, but we started heading back. I being on front, and having given my leather jacket to A, was colder than I’ve ever been in my life. I was also pretty tired from the cold, and being about 5 am, it is possible that I dozed off once or twice on the drive home. That isn’t very safe while operating a motorcycle. I pulled over at least once to do jumping jacks.

Two days later I headed up Willard Peak with some friends to watch the fireworks in the valley below, and A came along. From that point you can see every firework show from Salt Lake to Brigham City. They aren’t incredibly impressive, but it is worth seeing once in your life. A and I discussed some things that desperately needed to be said. She wanted to start dating again. I explained that up until we broke up I had carried the weight of the relationship. I had been the one trying to make things work, and maybe to an extent I was trying to force something to happen. I had understood the pressure from her family, and how stressful it was to like me while her family, who she respected, hated me. I had been fine carrying the relationship, but I couldn’t do it any longer. It wasn’t fair to her, and it really wasn’t fair to me. I was fine if she wanted to start actually dating again, but it was going to have to be her that made it work this time. She agreed.

The next month and a half flew by, and frankly I don’t remember much of it. I’d like to say that A’s family started liking me, and approved of our dating, but they didn’t. On the other hand A wasn’t affected by it. She decided that she no longer cared what her family thought of us. She had thought about it, and she wanted to be with me, and she felt good about our relationship and our future. That was enough.

My friends and I planned a trip to Lake Powell. We were all going down for a week. We were about 6 couples, a couple singles, and my dad (the captain), a houseboat, two ski boats, two sit-down PWCs, and a stand-up JetSki. It was a blast. I was a little stressed and probably more irritable than I should have been, but that was probably because I had a diamond ring in my duffel bag. I was so gun shy I didn’t know if I could bring it out again.
Friday I asked A if she wanted to go on a hike. She said she was down, and we decided that the evening was the best time to hike because it was too hot during the day. As the sun was starting to set we took a PWC across the channel, parked it in a small cove, and hiked up the slickrock. We didn’t hike very far, but stopped at a spot that overlooks Halls Creek Bay and Halls Crossing Marina. We just sat there while I tried to work up the courage to possibly get rejected again. Finally after about an hour I reached into my sock, put the ring on my pinky, and shifted onto my knee. I looked her in the eyes, told her she was my best friend, that I loved her, and that I wanted to spend eternity with her. She told me I was her best friend and that she would love to.

Credits.

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Epilogue: Her family approves of me now. Some of her sisters even love me. Her mom and I have never had the strongest relationship, but we are respectful toward each other. C doesn’t particularly like me personally, but she does like the way I treat her sister and admits that we have a great marriage. A’s dad, about two years after our wedding, told me that he was sorry for the way he acted before we were married. He told me that he thought I was a good guy, I treated A well, and that he was wrong. That apology meant the world to me.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Why I believe in Guardian Angels, Part III

This is the third installment. Here are links to the first and second.

It was the first day of school, senior year. Up until this time I had been driving our family's GMC Sierra for months, fortunately my dad now needed it for a construction project he was working on. This meant that I had to drive his 1984 Corvette for a week or two.

The weather had been odd all day. It had changed from sunny to rainy and back again a number of times already. My friend Tyler and I grabbed our bags and headed out the school doors toward the parking lot. He lived next door to me so I offered to give him a ride home, up the canyon to Mantua. We rolled through Brigham at speeds near 50 mph and gained steam as we took the overpass over Highway 89. The rain started back up again in sporadic fashion. A sheet of rain, then nothing, another sheet, then nothing. I was pushing 60, then 70, then 80 in a matter of seconds. I had taken this canyon at 100 before and felt quite comfortable with a scant 85. I merged onto the highway and we sped past the poor fools in their Accords and Camrys. I was a mile up the canyon, testosterone pumping. Pearl Jam was laying down a soundtrack for our adventure: Once upon a time Mr. Eddie Vedder could trust himself.

Suddenly my front tires felt loose. We were spinning, fast. We turned around 360 degrees, and decided to go 90 more before our spin slowed and we found ourselves in oncoming traffic. I slammed on the gas with the wheel whipped to the right, spun 180 degrees back toward the lane we came from, and then took the rest of the canyon at 45 miles per hour. I had learned my lesson - 12" sports car tires make great skis in the rain.

Had we been in a higher profile vehicle, there is no doubt the 85 mile per hour spin would have flipped us. Had it been any other 5 seconds in the canyon, it is likely we would have been hit by oncoming traffic. At the very least, if I had spun the other way, we would have slid off the road, either into a barrier or into a tree. Luckily none of those things happened, and we arrived safely home.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Recent Project

I recently took on a project - which is not my nature. Projects in my home are the woman's domain. Not for any gender-based reason, but just because I as the only man in the home, hate projects; and my wife, as the only woman in the home, loves them. Painting, building, staining, quilting, etc. that's all for my wife. I'd rather play Modern Warfare or watch a movie, and I'll work on the cars if they ever need fixin'.
Well the stars aligned and hell froze over during the four day Thanksgiving weekend. I participated in the anathema. I went to Home Depot, bought plywood, hardwood, glue, clamps . . . I went to my dad and borrowed his router, circular saw, chop saw, table, sanders . . . I started building an entertainment center from scratch.

Now mind you, I used to enjoy projects and building. In all honesty my hatred for projects is more a function of being tired than not enjoying the work. But the result is the same, projects are never started by me.

That being said, I feel this one went surprisingly well. Especially considering the fact that I have never done any woodworking before in my life. I have worked construciton, and done some framing, so I do have familiarity with many of the tools, but I have never made any furniture before.

I thought I'd share some photos of the work.













Placing the vertical boards in the bottom piece.












Gluing the pieces together


Gluing the Facing on the shelves and sides













In our living room.



Another view of the (somewhat) finished project.



This project is not completely finished. I will still be making doors and placing them on all the compartments. I will update this when it is complete. In the meantime, after ~40 hours of work, I feel that this entertainment center is turning out very nice, and am a little impressed with myself for doing it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Personal Revelation

I spoke in sacrament meeting last month. The topic was personal revelation. I have been debating cutting the talk down, translating it into essay format, etc. But I think I want to post it in its entirity as is. It's long. Sorry.

Personal story

We Mormons like to tell stories about Apostles, Prophets, and sometimes as missionaries even Zone Leaders or Assistants that seem to be constantly led by the spirit in all that they do and all that they say. We are fascinated by tales of an Apostle changing his direction that he is walking or driving, approaching a stranger, and performing a miracle. If only we could be more like that and know without being told by human lips how we can perform the Lord’s work most effectively. But how does one receive this gift? Paul tells us to seek out the best gifts, but how does one seek out revelation?
When I was fairly new to the mission this question was broached with a companion of mine. He had an idea that I feel was inspired. We as Elders called to serve in the Jardines area had the stewardship of all non-members in that area, and as stewards we were capable of prophesy – being the mouthpiece of God – unto the un-baptized of our area. We had the ability to be led by God in our work, and surely he was leading us in everything we did. The question wasn’t whether or not he was guiding us, but learning to hear his voice and to differentiate it from noise of the world.
My companion’s idea was, every morning before we were to leave, to pray for guidance to the one person, in particular, that God had prepared for us to talk to that day. This wasn’t a vague prayer that we find a new investigator, but a specific question: Who among our list of 50-or-so investigators is most ready to talk to us today. We would pray separately, pondering through our list of investigators in our heads, and after we both felt we had come to an inspired thought we would talk about it. If we had come to the same conclusion, we could relatively safely say that it was inspired and we were learning to know God’s voice. If they were different, we could conclude that at least one of us was hearing noise, and we would both pray again until we settled on what we believed to be an inspired prompting.
Now we realized that God had – hopefully – prepared more than one person for us to talk to each day, but we felt confident that he also wanted us to learn to recognize His voice. So we felt comfortable that he wouldn’t try to confuse us by telling each of us different inspirations.
Over the weeks that ensued it became easier and more natural. It wasn’t always the first attempt, but we were usually able to reach an agreement quickly. And the results felt inspired when we visited the investigators as well. We often reached them to find that they had had something special happen to them the day before and were eager to talk to us.

We, as baptized members of the church, by the authority of the priesthood have received the gift of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. President Woodruff taught that "every faithful member of the Church is entitled to receive personal revelation," Every member, Entitled to receive.
I would like to quote a passage from Roy W. Doxey’s book Walk With the Lord:
“Every day men and women come, by revelation, to understand the basic truth that God has restored his gospel and church.
“Every day leaders of the Church are led by revelation to conduct the affairs of the Church, general and local, throughout the world.
“Every day Latter-day Saint missionaries are impressed by the spirit of revelation to bear witness, to know what to say, to know what to do, and to teach by the spirit of revelation.
“Every day the mind and will of the Lord as revealed in the standard works of the Church are illuminated in the minds of the Latter-day Saints by the spirit of revelation.
“Every day faith is increased in the hearts of the faithful by evidences of revelation in their lives—in decisions regarding marriage, vocations, home concerns, business ventures, lesson preparations, danger signals—in fact, in all facets of life.
“Every Latter-day Saint may know by the spirit of revelation that President Joseph Fielding Smith spoke the truth when he said: ‘The Lord not only blesses the men who stand at the head and hold the keys of the kingdom, but he also blesses every faithful individual with the spirit of inspiration’ ” (Roy W. Doxey, Walk with the Lord [1973], 173–74; emphasis in original).
Father’s Love
Our doctrine teaches us that our Father has a very personal love for each of us as his sons and daughters. He put in place a large organization that we call the Church for us to be able to come together, as a community in Christ, and hear his words through the mouth of a Prophet. But, in addition to that, he speaks to each of us, individually. He reveals his will, his love, his doctrine to our hearts and to our minds. He speaks to us in times of need and helplessness, as well as in times of rejoicing. As the truths of the restored Gospel are taught to us, he sends his comforter to confirm the message that we are hearing. When facing a life decision, he directs us where to go, what to do, who to be with.
Jesus taught us, while speaking of the father and his willingness to answer our questions and desires in Luke 11

9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?
12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

Our Father in heaven is a loving Father who desires to speak to each of us, probably on a much more regular basis than we are accustomed to, or attuned to, hearing him speak.

Presence of God

I've noticed that we Mormons often have a tendency to try to limit God's power and abilities. Sometimes we think that our Father can't speak to us if - - - and we fill the if with any one of a hundred reasons. The truth is that Our Father wants to commune with us, he wants to help us and guide us. Often we need it the most when we have fallen the hardest. The Spirit can and will speak to us in our times of need, even if we might not be the shining standard of perfection.
I have heard people warn that upon entering a bar, or any establishment or location that might be associated with sin, that the spirit won't accompany them. I tend to find this paradigm sad. While Helaman 4:24 does tell us that the "Spirit dwells not in unholy temples." this scripture is about us, we are the temples, if we are worthy, the spirit dwells with us. When Jesus walked the earth, he was often found among sinners and yet he still communed directly with our Father. We too, can be sure that we can be guided and receive revelation in the world, among the world, if we have a virtuous reason for being there.
That's not to say that I would go to a rock concert in preparation to receive personal revelation - After all, there are probably more appropriate places to expect guidance in our lives. Howard W. Hunter said "Temples are sacred for the closest communion between the Lord and those receiving the highest and most sacred ordinances of the holy priesthood." (Howard W. Hunter, “The Great Symbol of Our Membership,” Ensign, Oct 1994, 2) Temples, church, the home, nature, there are a number of places that one could go when seeking guidance in life.
I would just emphasize that God will not leave us in our time of need, if He has something to say to us, he is capable of teaching us while amidst sinners, even at 3am.
Now, speaking of unholy temples, even temple square needs to be vacuumed every week; it too gets a little dirty. And yet despite a little dust on the furniture, and perhaps some dirt on the carpet, the light of God still shines brightly, and revelation is received and followed in that temple. Similarly at times we may find that we too are a little dusty, a little unclean, that does not mean we can't receive guidance as long as we are not wholly unworthy.
Liberal nature of God
I tend to think that the spirit of the Lord flows very freely, and the scriptures time and time again attest to this idea:
-And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
-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.
-And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.
-What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
-And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.
-that I may pour out my Spirit upon all flesh—
-But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

There are many times when the scriptures speak of the Holy Ghost as “Liberal”, Freely-Flowing, “constant companion”. I don’t personally know of any scriptures that speak of the Holy Ghost as “rare”, “elusive”, or “fleeting”.
I think many would like to think of the Holy Ghost and its manifestations as more rare, and I agree that those life-changing mind-blowing experiences are not a daily event, but I think the companionship of the Spirit can be, and is, and one can, should, and probably does more often than they realize, receive guidance from the spirit daily.

President Faust, speaking on the subject of revelation said: [T]he right to enjoy the marvelous gifts of the Holy Ghost is conferred upon every member of the Church soon after baptism. This is in fulfillment of the promise of the Savior: “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16).
This powerful gift entitles the leaders and all worthy members of the Church to enjoy the gifts and companionship of the Holy Ghost, a member of the Godhead whose function is to inspire, reveal, and teach all things. The result of this endowment is that since the Church was organized, the leadership and members have enjoyed, and now enjoy, continuous revelation and inspiration directing them in what is right and good. Inspiration and revelation are so common, so widespread, so universal among the leaders and the members that there is a strong spiritual base underlying what is done. This can be found in the gatherings of the Church, both large and small.
Latter-day Saints, having received the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, are entitled to personal inspiration in the small events of life as well as when they are confronted with the giant Goliaths of life. If worthy, we are entitled to receive revelations for ourselves, parents for their children, and members of the Church in their callings. (James E. Faust, “Communion with the Holy Spirit,” Ensign, Mar 2002, 2–7)
I think President Faust really emphasizes the ubiquitous nature of revelation in our church.
After this he goes on to add a caveat:
But the right of revelation for others does not extend beyond our own stewardship. . (James E. Faust, “Communion with the Holy Spirit,” Ensign, Mar 2002, 2–7)
Now, I have stewardship over my family. It is possible for me to receive direction from the Lord in how we should administer our household. The Bishop has stewardship over the affairs of the ward, and has the right to receive revelation in how to administer the ward affairs. Each person with the gift of the Holy Ghost has the ability to receive guidance from the spirit within the realm of their own stewardship. I however do not have the right or ability to receive revelation about the administration of the Creekside Ward. Similarly, to my understanding, the Bishop would not likely receive revelation about what I should cook for dinner. Not because it's not an important question, and God would never direct something so trivial. Believe me, my dietary needs are of utmost importance. But because my culinary designs do not fall under his stewardship; the Bishop would not be entitled to any such revelation.
I point this out because I think it's an important, and sometimes overlooked concept. I'll give you a better example: I could decide to live a very healthy life, I might feel inspired in this pursuit to give up corn syrup from my diet. I think it is very possible that the Holy Ghost might prompt me to do this, and this pursuit could very likely bring me closer to the Lord through purification of my temple.
A few weeks later there might be a lesson on the Word of Wisdom in Elders Quorum and I decide to share my experience. “Brethren,” I say, “I have felt prompted in my life to discontinue consuming corn syrup. Since I have done so I have felt healthier, I feel that I have a better relationship with my family, and I feel the influence of the Holy Ghost stronger than ever before. I feel that the Spirit has guided me to abstain from this ingredient.” - - so far so good, I've shared a personal story that I find relevant that has brought me peace and happiness, but then I decide to add - "I would challenge each of you to do the same." And there's the problem. I haven't received revelation for my Elder's Quorum. And even if I'm the President, it would still be possible for me to receive personal revelation for my life, and maybe even for my family's, and not have the revelation be relevant for my Quorum. We need to be careful, because there is a phrase for us applying our own guidance to the lives of others outside our stewardship - Unrighteous Dominion.
Asking in Faith
We are probably all familiar with the scripture James 1:5
James 1:5 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. But let him ask in faith . . .
Much discussion has been given to that passage amongst Latter Day Saints. We all know that one of the key parts is to ask in faith. What does it mean to ask in faith? Does it mean to ask with a belief that you will hear Gods voice, and failing to hear is a sign of a lack of faith?
Not at all.
We should be hopeful that God will respond to us in a manner that we will recognize, but often God does not answer our inquiries for days, months, or years. Sometimes we never recognize his answer until much later on in life, but that doesn't mean that he didn't answer, and it doesn't mean that we didn't ask in faith.
I believe that to ask in faith means that no matter the answer we receive, we will be faithful to Our Lord. Whatever he asks of us, we will do. If we go seeking direction in our life, but we already have our mind made up that no matter what the answer, we're going with plan A, then we are not asking with faith, humble to the direction of the spirit.

Confirmation of the Spirit

The following passage is taken from a talk about Priesthood found in the Millenial Star - November 13 1852 attributed to Joseph Smith Jr.
We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark that they would do any thing they were told to do by those who presided over them if they knew it was wrong, but such obedience as this is worse than folly to us. it is slavery in the extreme and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself should not claim a rank among intelligent beings until he turns from his folly. A man of god who seeks for the redemption of his fellows would despise the idea of seeing another become his slave who had an equal right with himself to the favour of god. He would rather see him stand by his side a sworn enemy to wrong so long as there was place found for it among men. Others in the extreme exercise of their almighty authority have taught that such obedience was necessary and that no matter what the saints were told to do by their presidents they should do it without asking any questions. When the Elders of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their hearts to do wrong themselves and wish to pave the way to accomplish that wrong or else because they have done wrong and wish to use the cloak of their authority to cover it with. (Millennial Star, vol.14 #38, pp. 593-95)

The Lord has given us the Spirit, to confirm by way of revelation, the truths as they are being taught by the Lord’s Anointed. Nephi taught us “For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.” Each of us should learn to be directed by personal communion with God to protect ourselves from Wolves entering among us in sheep's clothing, and so we can distinguish without any doubt the good fruits in the world.

Sensibility

Doctrine and Covenants 8:2 directs us that when the spirit speaks to us, he will speak to our mind and our heart. This to me means, to put it as simply as possible, that it will make sense to us, and feel good. That's not to say that the Lord's ways will always make the most logical sense to us, but I do have an expectation that when the Lord talks to us he usually speaks with a voice of reason. When Joseph Smith was receiving line upon line, precept upon precept, to the point that he restored truths of the Gospel as well as Doctrine which had been lost from the earth for generations, these truths usually had two common traits, they made sense, and they felt right.
I think it is very possible for something to “feel good” but not make any sense. This may not be promptings of the Spirit. Now it might be a yellow light, it might be an ambiguous answer, but a person receiving a “good feeling” about an idea that makes no logical sense might do well to pray some more.
Similar to this, I’ve seen people walk away from things that were the most sensible option, because they had a bad feeling. Now I wouldn’t dare comment on a case to case basis whether another person had received a bad feeling as personal revelation, as it is not my revelation to receive. But I feel safe saying, generally, that sometimes we get bad feelings and they might just be cold feet. The Lord will speak to our mind and our heart. When one of these is lacking, often more guidance is needed.

Sharing

I don't believe in discounting any person's communion with God, I believe that we all have a right to receive direction from the Holy Spirit, and I believe we should cherish those experiences, and when others humbly share those experiences with us, for our benefit, we should appreciate the wisdom that they are sharing with us, and at the very least give them the benefit of the doubt that what they received was revelation for themselves.
At the same time, I feel that personal revelations are usually meant to be personal, and should be kept sacred to oneself. They should be shared when prompted by the spirit, but should not be expressed as a demonstration of spirituality. For this reason I believe it was wisdom in God that I cannot receive personal revelation for any other person.

Lament of a Materialist

I find myself up on my roof, bent over, nail gun in hand. My knees are sore, my calves are accustomed to a fire that they have rarely experienced before, and my back is about to pack its bags and leave me forever. It’s Saturday and I am cutting the last shingles I will have to cut before my project is complete.
I have put 40 hours of work into the roof myself, and about 40 more in total have been volunteered by friends and family; many coming from my mom despite the fact that she is 58 and a complainer. She’s a real trooper.

But I am by myself today.

I remember all the projects I worked on as a child. Particularly the snowfort that Jake, Dan, and I built out of a pile of snow left at the end of the drive by a snowplow. It had two satellite stations connected to a central atrium – the command center – by tunnel. Each station had a missile armory, equipped with hundreds of snowballs crafted with bits of ice and sometimes rocks. We spent days building this fort, not because we had to, but because we loved it. Hours in the icy cold digging, packing, smoothing, perfecting. We never had anyone challenge our fort in a snowball fight, but that wasn’t because all of us were a part of it and there was no one left to challenge. No, it was because it was impenetrable, and no fool would dare attack.

In the summer we had 4 forts around town that we had built. One at my house that my dad helped erect, it stood eight feet off the ground and had a rope ladder and a climbing rope to enter. One at Tyce’s house. One in Jake’s backyard that we built ourselves, and another in the apple tree across the street that his uncle helped build.

We worked in the sandbox at Jake’s house for hours, days, and even weeks. We were the creators of towns, cities, and military bases. We were the gods of the G.I. Joes, Ninja Turtles, and Hot Wheels that inhabited our earths.

Tyce and I worked for weeks one fall to create the perfect dogsled for Vern – my Samoyed/Siberian Husky crossbreed – to pull. We drilled through skis we picked up at DI, fastened them to crossbars upon which we screwed on a seat. Behind the seat we put a standing area from where a person could push to help Vern get started, and then ride along. By the time we were done building it weighed far too much for Vern to possibly pull (so we just used a plastic sled from Wal-Mart, and he pulled us for hours) but it didn’t matter, it wasn’t about the end result. We built because we loved to work and create, not because we had to.

Now I work because I have to, and I do it alone unless one of my friends can eek out the spare time from his work, family, and own projects.

I sit behind a computer for most of the 45-50 hours I work every week. I don’t enjoy most of it, and I don’t feel much satisfaction. When the day is over I go home and have no energy to do any of the things I love. Mountain biking, snowboarding, wakeboarding, these are things that will wait until the weekend. If there are any projects around the house, any cars that need to be fixed, any leaks that need to be repaired – it is drudgery, and I only look forward to sitting on the couch and watching Chuck and Arrested Development until 11 o’clock rolls around and I can roll into bed.

In four months my son will be born. My first child. I so look forward to teaching him how to sled and ski and snowboard. Teaching him how to kick a soccer ball and throw a football. I can’t wait to teach him how to become a man. I have a clear mental picture of all the fun we will have together. But I know that in reality I will come home from work at 4:30, sit on the couch, watch Mad Men, and hate the fact that I have no energy left to enjoy the life I’ve created.

I just bought a new 50” Plasma TV. It looks gorgeous. It will go great on the wall in our house that has five bedrooms, a living room, and a family room. On the other side of the wall will be parked our two cars and a number of toys. We will watch it while we eat our KFC on our leather couches. I look at these things and I remember why I do it all. I sacrifice it all for them.