ALS, ASL, Hope and Testimony

Years ago, when I lived in Detroit, serving as a missionary for my Church, I met a family who were some of the best examples of being positive in the midst of adversity. Their examples have been, in the years since, some that I have worked hard to emulate. I’ve often failed in that attempt, but… I’d be surprised if they didn’t fail in that attempt sometimes, too.

The father of the family, I’ll call him Bill (it wasn’t bill, but neither can I remember his name, nor would I share it if I could… because  this story is about my experience with them, rather than their experiences directly.) – Bill was a very successful martial arts instructor in Detroit. Very few martial artists get to do more than make an hobby out of their sport. Fewer still actually get paid for that sport. And even fewer still earn enough in that pay to be able all of their bills, and still fewer earn a good living. He was one of the rare few who could. He’d made a lifetime career out of training others in the martial arts, and in some particular forms that were uniquely his; he had customers seek him out from throughout the world to learn from him. He had comfortably provided for his family for many years, doing what he loved; training and performing and competing in the martial arts.

This was all before I met him.

And then he got Lou Gehrig’s. His was a particularly aggressive form of ALS. If my memory is being honest, the way that Bill described it to me was something along the lines of “I’m lucky because, as bad as it is, Lou Gehrig’s Disease only last’s for a couple of years! I can expect to be fully free of the disease in 3 to 5 years!” I was entirely ignorant of the disorder, and for someone who had been such a physically powerful man, the wheelchair laden man who’s arms were bound tightly to his chest by muscle spasms belied his history. “That’s wonderful!” I said…. only to get the sly look of an obviously intelligent man with mischief in his eyes….. he knew that I was ignorant of his disorder… “The only down side,” he continued, “Is that it’s fatal in every case so far….” Most healthy, 20 year old boys don’t know how to respond to that. I was no exception. I stuttered the obligatory “I’m so sorry!” as his wife playfully chided him for teasing the missionaries.

For those who, like I was, are ignorant of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, it’s formally known as ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). It is an aggressive disease, which for most people (Bill being one of them) has no known cause, and no known cure. It is fatal in every known instance. Most people die within 3-5 years of diagnosis, but some live as long as 10 years (or more). It attacks the brain, the nerves, people’s speech (making it very difficult to understand them) and the muscles, causing everything to become progressively weaker until the lungs and heart no longer have the strength to do their job, and the person finally succumbs and dies.

The years since I met Bill have been met with a substantial increase in public awareness of this disease, and a substantial increase in research and understanding of it. Doctors and scientists say of ALS that little is known… and that’s after all of the major advancements we’ve made. When I met Bill, next to nothing was known.

And so here I was, meeting a physically diminished man, who had several days of scruff on his face, because he could no longer shave, and it was hard for his wife to shave him every day, on top of her other responsibilities like bathing, feeding, and helping with bodily functions… She had left her professional career to take care of him full time, and they’d just left their home, which was a beautifully restored house from Detroit’s Golden Motown Era (seriously, do some googling…. the architecture from that time frame is amazing…. simply stunning!) in order to move into a small place  with no stairs where he could maneuver in his motorized wheelchair. The previous 3 or so years had been nothing but broken lives and turmoil, all with the known and foreseeable undesirable end.

And yet, here Bill and his beautiful wife were not only content, but happily joking and teasing those around them. They weren’t just accepting of their circumstances, but thriving in them.

In our Church, once a month we forgo sermons or prepared talks to allow the congregation to share with each other our testimonies of faith and be strengthened by others’.

Just before I completed my mission, and came home to Idaho, we had one of these meetings. Bill rolled his wheelchair to the front of the chapel, and (painfully) stood from it. As he reached the podium, he put his mouth near the microphone (he was getting hard to hear, as his voice’s strength was going too.) He began by telling everyone that he wanted to take every chance he could to proclaim his faith, because he was starting to get too weak to continue to come to church, and he knew that he wasn’t going to live much longer.

Setting this premise for the congregation, who had all grown to love and cherish this amazing man, he continued.

“I know that it’s hard to understand my speech, so I’d like to share my testimony to you in Sign Language.”

He clumsily stepped back from the podium and raised his painfully wrenched arms and hands to shoulder level, the task clearly wore him out, and he had to lean back to do it. Everyone in the congregation felt embarrassed for Bill because we could see what he obviously couldn’t: there was no way he was going to do any signing.

Stepping back to the podium, arms still raised, he awkwardly looked from one hand, and then to the other, as if realizing for the first time that they weren’t working the way that they should.

“Dang it.”

And the congregation, uncharacteristically for our Church, burst out laughing through our tears on his behalf.

Of course Bill knew that he couldn’t sign. And that was the point. He knew that he’d just darkened the mood of the room, and he solved it at his own expense.

He then went on to bare a beautiful testimony of faith, redemption, and of hope.

The reason that Bill and his wife could have such positive attitudes surrounding his rapid decline in health and his impending death, was that they had been married together, not just until death parted them, but for time and all eternity. They had faith that the promise of the Savior for resurrection, perfection, and wholeness would all be fulfilled. They believed the Savior’s promise that they would get to be together with Him. This life, after all, is just a trial period. And that trial might be ending for him, but there was more to come.

I left within the next couple of weeks. I don’t think that I ever saw Bill again. I don’t imagine that he lived much longer… though I’d be happy to be wrong.

But their example has lived on in me.

And so has his faith.

Hopefully it can make your day a little better today, too.

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Advent, the Nativity, and Forgetting Christ

In homes and congregations throughout the world, the month leading up to Christmas is spent preparing for the Nativity – this period is known as Advent. In our family, we often set up our Christmas tree the day after thanksgiving (though it was the middle of December this year), followed by a Christmas party with our congregation in the beginning of December. The rest of the month, like many of us, is often spent worrying about presents, stressing about bills, and trying to bake delectables for those we care about. I won’t waste your time saying what more eloquent people have said before me; I’ll let it suffice that I worry that the most important part of the season is lost to most of us.

So forgive my ramblings as I share some thoughts (not just my own).

For centuries the chosen people had waited for the Messiah, the one who would save them and make them free. Some looked for a political savior, others for a teacher and others yet for a redeemer. And the signs were given that the time for the Messiah was at hand. Some thought the Maccabees would fill the role. Others looked onward, all waited for the Advent of the chosen one of God. With the oppression of Rome, the plea for a redeemer grew ever stronger.

Sometime in the summer between the years 6 and 2 BC, a young woman was visited by an angel, telling her that she had been chosen by God to carry His son and bring him into the world.  I can’t imagine the elation and terror she must have experienced. We aren’t told how, but the Spirit of God descended on Mary, and she became pregnant with the very Son of the Living Father. Mary, did you know?

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In the following months, we know, that the young woman married her betrothed, Joseph. We know little of the man, but that he was good, just and faithful is clear.  And some time in the spring of the next year, the expectant couple traveled to their ancestral home of Bethlehem to be taxed and counted. The small town would have been bustling and though she was nearing labor, Mary and Joseph were refused room in the boarding houses. One could infer that it was due to their poverty that they were turned away, but irrespective of the reason, Joseph prepared room in a stable for his wife to bring her Son into the world. I can imagine the feelings of helplessness he experienced, because the helplessness that all husbands feel during childbirth hasn’t changed over the long centuries between Joseph and me.

We don’t know how long she labored, but sometime in the early days of our month of April, Mary gave birth to her first son, and, swaddling him, laid him in a manger meant for feeding sheep.

Despite the songs, the Judean landscape has few plains, but is full of hills and valleys. It was in these hills around Bethlehem that shepherds grazed their sheep and watched them through the night. download

It was to these simple people that the first angelic announcement of the arrival of the Messiah came. The angels told them that He would bring peace on earth to men of good will. Many songs have been, and will yet be, written about this visit.

Without doubt, the shepherds left their flocks, following the angelic direction, entered the town to find the baby with His mother and Joseph. Having worshiped the Messiah, they left to spread the word of His birth.

Sometime before or during the holy birth, a new star appeared in the sky. Astrologers and astronomers have spent 2 millennial seaking an explanation, but there can be no doubt that it was recognized as both a miracle and a sign, at least to some, and perhaps only in the east, from whence came the wise men. The narrative gives us little clues to their identities, or even their numbers, but tradition tells us that there were three wise men, and names them: Melchior, Balthazar and Caspar. images These wise men came in the months or years following the Messiah’s humble birth in the stables of Bethlehem.

That Mary made the sacrifices of purification using doves, rather than a lamb, shows the family’s continued poverty.  But when the wise men arrived, and found the Holy Child,they gifted the Holy Child the kingly gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. After the angel warned Joseph to flee to Egypt to protect his ward, I imagine those gifts paid the way.

The wise men, warned in a dream of the wicked intentions of the murderous Herod, returned to their own lands by alternate routes, and are lost to history. Enraged, Herod butchered all of the male children under the age of two, rightly earning his reputation that will carry through history. Joseph’s faithful adherence to the prompting a of the angels protected his wife and her son.

Thus the first Christmas story is completed. The Son grew to a man, astonishing even the elders of the synagog with his wisdom and understanding. Only 33 short years after his birth, around His 34th birthday, the Savior of Mankind would labor in Gethsemane. Ironically, the symbol of the scapegoat was lost on the Jewish elite, and they gave Him up to be crucified among thieves, fulfilling His earthly mission. It was His resurrection that broke the bonds of sin and death, and his prophesied return that will fill all the forms of Messiah that Children of Israel sought.

We, like the shepherds, are commanded to spread the good news of Jesus the Messiah to all the world.  And as Advent comes to a close, and we celebrate the Nativity, I will be seeking to remember Jesus, and to spread His joy to those in need. I hope you’ve felt that joy as you’ve read my insufficient story, and listened to the beautiful music I’ve linked.

And from my family to you, merry Christmas. May the hope of the Messiah carry you through the new year. May we remember Him in our actions. May we embrace the Advent, celebrate the Nativity, and never forget the Christ.

Reconciliation, Reparations, and Seeing Each Other as People Again

“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

-Abraham Lincoln’s 2nd Inagrial Address
As a graybeard millennial, I don’t have the anecdotal experience to back up the following claim, but I still think it’s accurate:

This is the most divisive campaign in living memory!

Not only is right fighting left, republican against democrat, but we have brother fighting g brother: the split of the conservative right is nearly complete. A similar, though not as extensive, split can be found in the liberal left.

There are proTrumpers and NeverTrumpers, PrincipleOverParty and AnyoneButHer, ImWithHer and FeelTheBurn. Regardless of how you vote, the next week will bring a close to the campaign season.

But can it bring a close to the divide in our Republic?  

The country has seen great division before, whether it be the claims of a hermaphroditic claims against Adams or the warning that ‘your young daughters will all be raped’ against Jefferson; be it the blue coats or the grey coats; we’ve seen division before.

So the question, the call for debate: Can we heal as a nation? If not, why not? If so, how do we bring this healing wind about?

What action do we, as a people, do to restore unity and peace to our country?
Does the method change depending on who next week’s winner is? Why? How?  

Today, I Am Peter

When they set out to cross the lake, a journey they had made many times before, the day was coming to a close. It had been an extraordinary day, one filled with wonder, power and miracles. But now, they had to make the 8 mile sail across the water. Usually, by setting the sail to catch the wind, combined with hard work at the oars, this trip was pretty quick.

But though it was hard work, it was work that Peter was used to. There was some joy and peace in the labor. He’d spent most of his life on this lake. He was a strong sailor, and a strong swimmer. If the truth was to be told, he’d forgotten more in his short life than most men ever learned about the trade. His hands knew the tasks at hand, so he could take the time to think about what he’d seen. He could reflect on the day.

None of the others talked much. Besides the hard work, it seemed like they all had a lot on their minds. How had he done that? Where was he now? What would they do next?

And then the winds changed. They were only about halfway across the lake, but with the wind shifting to become a head wind, they had to drop the sails. This meant that the remaining 4 miles would need to be done at the oars alone. This was never fun, but, like the rest of this work, Peter was confident, calm, and prepared for the trouble of it.

And then the waves started to form. Theirs was not a small boat, but she was sturdy. Really, she was bigger than many on the lake, but these waves were easily large enough to crash over the sides. They were easily big enough to capsize the boat if they turned her broadside.

So here they were, rowing hard against the waves which pushed them back for every stroke. If the stopped rowing, they’d turn, and the waves would have them. They couldn’t raise the sails because the wind was at their bow.

And it was totally dark. The moon was still low, too low to be an effective guide.

It was dark. The wind howled. The men were tired, and sore, and alone. There was no other boats nearby, not that they’d be able to see them in these waves and darkness. If they lost control now, they’d surely drown. Peter was starting to worry.


Life has a way of dishing out its worst right after we have experienced great blessing. The Adversary works his hardest to challenge us at these times; to make us doubt the joy and peace of God’s gifts; to forget the grace that we’ve received; to focus only on the momentary, the challenging, and the worrisome. And he’s pretty good at it.
I’ve gone from being at the helm, metaphorically speaking, of my life; knowing what I was doing, where I was going, and how I was going to get there… to not knowing how I’m going to function in the most basic ways; to not knowing how I’m going to raise my children; not knowing how to even take care of myself; and (sometimes) to not know where my next meal will come from. It’s been a pretty major shift for me. I’ve been content with the work of it all. I’m no stranger to hard work. But there is still fear in not knowing. There is fear in the challenges of life.


As they worked to keep the boat straight against the waves, Peter heard a shriek of terror come from behind him. As he listened to hear why his friend had cried out, he saw it: the ghostly apparition on the water. Peter had never been one to believe in silly superstitions, but how could he deny his own eyes? The evidence was overwhelming, and his shipmates confirmed the same: there was a figure on the water.

The moonlight reflected off the white of the figures robes, creating an halo of pale, blue light. The figure was moving across the storming seas as if they were simple hills.

And Peter was terrified. Was this was some apparition from the after-world coming to claim him and his shipmates? Surely, they were about to die, and this figure was their host into the next world.

As they began to fear for their lives, the boat started to turn. Peter cried out for his friends to keep her straight! Even in that moment of sure death, he wasn’t one to let it come easily. The spirit of death would have him, but not without a fight.


There is an old Christian trope that “God will not give you more than you can handle.” While it has some basis in truth, the understood implication is that whatever challenge we are given can be borne by us. This just isn’t true.

Oftentimes,  life presents us with challenges far to great for us to carry on our own.

The burdens that we bear sometimes curve our backs and break our wills. And just in that moment of deep despair, the challenges of life will sometimes side swipe us with a pickup truck. This can be overwhelming. Having had the broken will and spirit, being crushed by the weight of the world, we are given only two options; to surrender and die is the easier option. But what else can we do?


Just then they heard the voice, carried clearly above the winds and the waves.
“Don’t be afraid! It is I! Take courage!”

Peter looked out over the waves, and in the darkness he saw, for what seemed like the first time, that the apparition was his friend, his brother, his master: the Galilean. But how could this be? No man can walk on the water. Yet, after what he’d seen earlier today, how could it be anyone else?


And so His voice comes to all who are broken in spirit. When the burdens have destroyed all hope that we can carry on alone, He calls to us: “don’t be afraid! Be courageous. I am here!”

And we, like Peter, have to choose: do we let fear win, and go down with our boat? That is the easy choice.


Like the Sons of Thunder next to him, Peter was impetuous. He was brave. And he knew that the Miracle Worker could do anything.

“If it’s you,” he cried to the Man on the water, “tell me to come out to you, on the water!”

Even in his challenge, he doubted himself. These waves were too strong for his boat, they would surely sink him. If he got into the water, he’d surely be a dead man. What was this challenge? Why had he called it? If he was wrong, he’d pay for the mistake with his life.

“Come!” Came the reply.


When the master calls to us, we have the final choice: the easy one? Or do we risk what stability we have now, no matter how destructive that stability is, and come to him? Do we surrender to Him our fears, our hopes, and even the ground beneath our feet at His bidding?


Keeping his eyes above the waves, and ignoring the gasps of terror of his crew, Peter stepped out of the tossing boat onto the waves. His eyes fixed on the Man, Peter began walking… walking! On the water! It was as if the sea had solidified under his feet, and he allowed his pace to quicken.  And then it hit him: literally. He hadn’t noticed the wave until it crashed into his side, drenching him further to the bone. And he looked down to check his footing. There was nothing but the sea beneath him!

And he doubted.


When we come to Him, keeping our eyes fixed on He who is our salvation, the terrors that had only moments before had overwhelmed and even threatened to destroy us, seem like a thing of the past.

But when we look to the challenges, and not the Man on the water; we falter. Every time. The proverbial waves that had threatened to destroy us are no less powerful, and we no more powerful. We haven’t suddenly grown the ability to defeat the challenges on our own. And once we start to wonder if it is by our own power that we are succeeding, we will surely begin to be swallowed up by the very things we wonder if we’ve defeated.


The doubt came quickly, and as it rushed upon him, so did the cold, dark water. He just had time to cry out desperately, “Lord! Save me!” As the water came up over his head, anxious to claim him to its depths. He kicked, he tried to tread, but the next wave washed over him, and he knew he had lost.

And then the hand grabbed his.

And his Master pulled him into His strong arms. “You of little faith,” He chided, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.


Like Peter, I have witnessed the miraculous. Like Peter, I have stood when the world said I should drown. Like Peter, I have begun the fearful journey of walking to the Master. And like Peter, I have doubted. I have tried, again and again, to do the work on my own.

But like Peter, I have cried out “Lord, save me!”

And He has. And He will again.

I just hope that, like Peter, I don’t forget the salvation offered to me. Today I want to be like Peter. 

God grant me the grace to see You above the waves of life. Give me the courage to call out to You. Give me the faith to follow You. And guide me to Your Glory.

I Was Completely Wrong, And I Didn’t Even Know It

Over the last several months, I’ve written and re-written an article defining what I believe is the key difference between American Liberalism and American Conservatism; between Socialism and Capitalism; between the political Left and the political Right. That difference is the polar opposites of Collectivism and Individualsim. It is this difference, I contend, that irreparably divides the political factions. Is is this difference that separates the political and moral foundations that define us.

And I maintain that I am correct in this assessment. The political left, the socialists, the progressives, and the American liberals all have one key tying them together: that the will of the individual is or should be subservient to the will and benefit of the whole; that the good of the many outweighs the good of the one; that individuals are made to better the society. In short, the fundemental core is collectivism.

This ideology and fundamental understanding directly contradicts the basis of the political right, the conservatives, libertarians, and the capitalists who believe that the will of the many cannot override the will of the individual (as long as that individual is not directly harming other individuals, taking their things, or taking their individual rights); that the individual benefits the society by acting in their own self interest while protecting the self interest of their neighbor; that society is made to protect the liberty of the individual. Theirs is the fundemental core of individualism.

I maintain that am I correct in these summaries, that they are accurate representations of the fundamental beliefs of these parties. I maintain that these positions are irreconcilable. 
However, I have always held that convincing arguments; convincing evidence; or a convincing combination of the two should and will change my mind when presented to me. Yesterday, one such argument was made, and it has caused me to change my view.

The institution of marriage is the foundational bedrock of western civilization. Marriage is the idea that you and your beloved are now a new family, and that family is a bulwark against the vicissitudes of fate and the vicissitudes of reality. You are a team and your goal is to both survive and flourish as a team; and you’re not going to do it separately. You’re going to better together, (to grab a phrase from Hillary Clinton’s idiotic campaign: she wants to do it better together as a government).
Family exists in opposition to the forces of nature. It exists in opposition to the forces of government. It exists in opposition to communitarianism. And it exists in direct opposition to the idea that the individual, on his own, is enough. The individual on his own isn’t enough. You need a wife or you need a husband because that person makes you a better person, completes you, and is the only person in the world who has the same agenda that you do in your life. Everybody needs both a cheerleader and a person for whom to cheerlead. That’s what marriage provides. 
Aside from that, without marriage the world ceases to function; the human world ceases to function because your creation of new life is, in both spiritual and physical form, the significant unification of humanity. Every time you have a child, you’re recreating humanity anew. And you’re expressing faith in God, faith in the future, and a belief that things will get better.

~Ben Shapiro

To borrow from this great thinker: “[the family] exists in direct opposition to the idea that the individual, on his own, is enough. The individualism on his own isn’t enough.”

And in a blink of an eye (he’s a fast talker), my mind has been changed. I no longer believe that society’s purpose is to benefit the individual. I no longer believe that the will of the individual trumps the will of society. I no longer believe that society is made to protect the liberty of the individual. I have been convinced by a great thinker, and fast talker, that the society’s purpose is to benefit the family. I believe that the will of the family trumps the will of society. I believe that society is made to protect the liberty of the family.

I believe that government should be only large enough to protect the family and its individuals from the dangers of those who would do them harm. When government grows to try to fill the God given role of the family, society dies a slow, angry, and bitter death. Our society is dying. We have rejected the family as the central unit of society. The political right have selfishly claimed that the most important unit in society is the individual. The political left have claimed that the individual must be trampled by the will of the whole in the damnable lie of “progress.” Both have ignored the family, to our ruin.
Go home today, or call, or whatever. Tell your spouse that you love them. Swallow your pride, and admit your faults. Open your soul to your beloved. Place her (or him) first. It is time that we replace the family in our society as the most important unit. Our society is dying: the only cure is the restoration of Godly principles starting with the family.

Broken Covenants; Unrepentant Sin; and Atonement

The gospel of Jesus Christ is full of individual responsibility, personal covenants, distinctive action, and one on one choice to follow the will of God. This holds the basis of Salvation: that each soul must choose for themselves whom they will serve. As Joshua so eloquently challenged: “If serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Inharently in Joshua’s command is the individual choice to serve God. 

However, a handful of nations have gone above and beyond this command of individual worship and covenant. 

Israel had made the covenant with their foundation. Having rejected it, they spent years in chastising bondage. Before returning to their home, Joshua warned them that he covenant not be taken lightly, and they made it again:

Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God.” 

Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.” 

But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.”

Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.” 

“Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied. 

“Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” 

And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and obey him.” On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he reaffirmed for them decrees and laws. 

On this continent, following a similar apostasy of the covenent people (who were a lost branch of the Israelites), the faithful leader Moroni called for a similar renewal of Godly covenent:

 Behold, whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them.

And it came to pass that when Moroni had proclaimed these words, behold, the people came running together with their armor girded about their loins, rending their garments in token, or as a covenant, that they would not forsake the Lord their God; or, in other words, if they should transgress the commandments of God, or fall into transgression, and be ashamed to take upon them the name of Christ, the Lord should rend them even as they had rent their garments.
Now this was the covenant which they made, and they cast their garments at the feet of Moroni, saying: We covenant with our God, that we shall be destroyed, even as our brethren in the land northward, if we shall fall into transgression; yea, he may cast us at the feet of our enemies, even as we have cast our garments at thy feet to be trodden under foot, if we shall fall into transgression.

Here, a similar covenent was made after years of hardship, termoil, and oppression:

On May 15, 1776, shortly after the Continental Army’s initial arrival at New York, months before the British invasion, Washington prepared his men. Not only did he prepare them physically, but spiritually. He called them to the covenant. In a General Order, he declared:

“Instant to be observed [on Friday the 17th] as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer, humbly to supplicate the mercy of Almighty God, that it would please him to pardon all our manifold sins and transgressions, and to prosper the Arms of the United Colonies, and finally establish the peace and freedom of America, upon a solid and lasting foundation.”
Then again on July 2, Washington in another General Order would remind his men that “the fate of unborn Millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army…Let us therefore rely upon the goodness of the Cause, and the aid of the Supreme Being, in whose hands Victory is.” Two days later, in Philadelphia, these same sentiments would be immortalized by the Continental Congress in the Declaration of Independence, which concludes, “And for support of this Declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
Washington was so convinced of his utter dependence upon this covenant relationship with God that he would continue to extend reminders and calls to repentance. On July 9, Washington issued another General Order in which he called for chaplains in each regiment to ensure that the soldiers “attend carefully upon religious exercises.” The order concluded with the following: “The blessing and protection of Heaven are at all times necessary but especially so in times of public distress and danger-the General hopes and trusts, that every officer and man, will endeavor so to live, and act, as becomes a good Christian soldier defending the dearest Rights and Liberties of his country.

In each of these cases, and many others, the sincere covenent with God has lead to victory of His covenent people: militarily, economically, in peace, in happiness, and in liberty.

But in each of these cases, we can also see the consequence when the people in question have defied or broken their covenant with God:

The Israelites, turning from God, were chastened with millennia of torment at the hands of the Canaanites, Persians, and the Arabs. After the final rejection and crucifixion of their God, they were dispersed entirely spending nearly 2000 years in exile for their failure to uphold their covenant.

The Nephites spent the better part of the next 1000 years being reminded of their covenent by falling and returning to God; accepting defeat and victory according to their faith. Ultimately they were completely destroyed in a genocidal war because of their failure to return to the God who protected them.

The Americans failure to keep their promise to God, and provide liberty to their fellow men, became embroiled in a civil war that nearly cost the nation, and remains to be the single most deadly war in their history. The following generation saw a turn from God, until they wer chastened by two generations of war, and returned them to the faith of God. However, the current trend is the most blatant rejection of God in American history: no longer do we openly enslave people by race, but we have committed an evil sacrament to Satan which has resulted in the murder of over 50 million innocent children: and we have called that sacrament good. We have turned away from our covenant and called it evil. We have selected leaders to guide us that we know are evil and unrighteousness actors, and called it inevitable.

America, like Israel and the Land of Nephi before them (and others) is ripe for just destruction. We have openly defied the God whom we promised to serve. Ours is a nation that has fallen into the worship of Baal and the grove, just as completely as our predecessors. And the Godly covenant gives us our promised consequence: obliteration.

But there is hope now, as there always has been. Israel is restored: they have turned back to the God who made them, and they have defied all external enemies (see the 7 day war…. And every other Israelie conflict in modern history….) the United States need only return to her Father for the promise of redemption.

Atonement must be made. Christ has made it, but we must accept that atonement, or we will make it ourselves again. That road leads to destruction.

As Joshua, I call on my readers to “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” The salvation of your individual soul depends upon your choice.

But as the Israelites, the Nephites, and the Americans before us, the return to God as a people; the restoration of our covenant; predicates our national security, our collective peace, our economic stability, and our cultural longevity. For the sake of our children, we must choose worthy leaders to lead and guide us. Like our spiritual ancestors, we must declare firmly that “We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God.” 

Miracles and the Hope of Children

I’ve been sitting on a couple of very personal topics. Because of my guilt and shame, I’ve cowardly been silent. In light of recent events, I feel more strongly than ever to speak, but don’t yet have the courage to do so.  However, as those topics have come more and more to the forefront of my mind, other things come with them.

One of those topics is that of childlike hope.

When I was young, Russia was still part of the USSR. The Berlin Wall still cut Berlin in half, and the idea that we would ever be able to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the poor countries bound by the Soviet Union was laughable… except that the prophet promised that we would be able to. In fact, he promised that we’d be able to share the gospel in all the world, as commanded by our savior.

Though I was young, I remember the Berlin Wall falling. I remember watching it on the news for what seemed like months, though it was probably just days (that says more about my parents than I ever thought it did…. now that I think about it….).

I remember siting in my school class when the Soviet Union collapsed. This occupied every public and many private discussions for a lot of time. It was both exciting to have the TV in class, and strange to be watching the news…. but It was a defining time in American history.

And only years later, when it was time for my cousins and I to go on our missions to teach the Gospel, I went to Detroit, and my cousin went to Russia.

I didn’t think much of that then. I’d had a couple of years (okay, 12…13?) to acclimatize to the idea of Russia not being the Soviet Union, not imprisoning Americans just for being there (though, if I understand correctly, that still happens…. I’d have to ask my cousin… I think it happened to him….); and more importantly, the Russian government legally allows for the teaching of Christian doctrines… something that wasn’t allowed under the USSR.

What’s your point, besides the reminiscing that comes with those approaching middle age, you might ask? (If you are asking that, you can just shut your mouth! I’m not that old… or… well…. 50 is the new 40, right? So I’ve still got some time….)  Ezra was just baptized this month. And he’s now excitedly talking about his desire to share Christ’s Good News with others: he wants to learn a dozen languages (he’s got apps for Spanish and Hebrew right now…) and he wants to go to China to teach the Gospel. I’ve explained that missionaries are really only allowed in Hong Kong, in fact, I have friends who have served there, but that’s not good enough for my son.

No, even though he understands that missionaries aren’t allowed in China, Ezra has the hope that HE will be able to go there. And if not him, definitely people his age. I was younger than him when the Wall fell, and I still find myself doubting the Lord’s ability to open China… where is my faith?

I don’t know everything. I don’t know how China will be open to missionaries for teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But the prophets have promised that it will, and like my son, I trust the Prophets.

Isn’t the pure faith of Children just amazing? I hope that I can grow up to be the spiritual giant my son is teaching me to be. And I hope that the borders are opened up for missionaries sooner rather than later, so he can be just as un-wondrous about he or his friends going there as I was about mine going to Russia.

Looking Forward and Disconnecting… Sort Of

I haven’t had a whole lot of desire to write lately. You might say that the wind got sucked out of my sails by the Republican Party’s abject abandonment of conservative values and constitutionally defined government. I’ve been accused by some of being overly dramatic, and hopefully those people are right.

The solid defeat of every constitutionalist in the primary in favor of a demagogic oligarch shows a deep rejection of the very fundamental values that brought our country and society to where we are today. For some, this is because they reject that place: it is wholly undesirable. For others, it is because they fail to understand how we have arrived where we are. Others, still, look after the welfare and socialist states of Europe and covetously desire that statism for us.

For whatever reason, the rejection of constitutionally conservative ideals at the ballot box is not the problem facing us, but rather a symptom of the problems facing our society in the last 100 or more years.

It is my initial desire to withdraw myself from following the political fields and races. But, as I’ve said before, I follow politics like most men follow sports. It is not my nature to withdraw, despite a desire to do so. I find myself in a predicament: I have no team to root for, the libertarians being the closest left in the field to my values and principles, but the likelihood that they will nominate Gary Johnson, a man who, despite the L next to his name, is only slightly more libertarian than Donald Trump is conservative. Sadly, unlike sports, I’m fully impacted and affected by the outcome, even if my team lost early on.

So, unable to withdraw, I intend to refocus myself: if we, conservatives, constitutionalists, and federalists, have lost the ballots, it is because we first lost the argument, and yet earlier lost the culture. How do I change the culture? I’m not sure that I can, but if I can use my voice to make the argument for conservative values, and perhaps persuade others to my point of view, I will have made some small impact. If not, at least I will have documented for my children that I fought to preserve the freedoms and liberties that my people surrendered. Liberty, once lost, must be regained by the next generations, as I don’t believe it can be returned to the same people who surrendered it.

So in the coming months, I intend to intensely devote myself to the study of the very principles that founded our great nation: that of tge Gospel of Jesus Christ, personal morality, freedom of association, freedom in the market, limited government, equal justice. Hopefully I avoid sounding preachy. But I hope you’ll join me in study, discourse, and the free sharing of ideas; even, and perhaps especially, if those ideas differ from mine.

If you enjoy my thoughts, like my ideas, or have your brain poked by my topics, I’d be honored to have you follow along on http://www.BrokenDad.com, like my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/brokendadblog, and if you like a post, share it on your wall and with your friends. This helps me to know that what I’m doing has an impact and it helps challenge my ideas.

Phobias vs Fears: Unreason vs Reason

I’m sitting in church right now. I should be paying attention, but I’m struggling to keep from breaking down into tears like a little child who’s toy was took (bad grammar is intentional).

So I thought I would share my thoughts on the difference in fears and phobias.

You see, in my Church, congregations are defined by geographical boundaries rather than preference, not unlike Catholic congregations. When an LDS congregation, called a ward, is too large, it is often split into multiple congregations or wards. When one is too small, it may be added to by redefining the surrounding ward boundaries. When you have two very small wards next to each other, they simply join them together.

Well, this week they unexpectedly dissolved our ward, dividing it into the three surrounding wards. My big sister (figuratively not physically) who lives across the street is now in a different congregation. And while my meeting time is the same, I now meet in a new building, with new people and new responsibilities (oh, we also have lay leadership, so every adult member in good standing holds positions of responsibility ranging from congregational leader to nursery cat herder).

But with the new congregation comes new social anxiety and new agoraphobia. Hence, the fetal position that threatens to overcome me at any moment.

So what is the difference between fear and phobia?

Well, I’m afraid of snakes. Growing up in the high deserts of the Rocky Mountains, we had 3 main kinds of snakes: garden snakes; small, harmless and common. Bull snakes; large, predatorial against other snakes, but harmless against humans. And finally diamondback rattle snakes: aggressive, intimidating, and one of the most poisonous snakes in North America. One who wandered the deserts like I did had to be constantly wary, aware, and armed (usually a .22 pistol, a small shotgun, or at least a rock). I am scared of being bitten by one of these dangerous creatures without the ability to reach proper care. But, despite my fear, I have never hesitated to wander the desert given the chance. Why? Because the fear is both reasonable and capable of being overcome with proper preparation.

On the other hand, I’ve a phobia of spiders. Seeing even the littlest folder spiders, small, harmless and the color of a file folder, these little monsters live in my house by the dozens. And every time I see one my heart races and my palms sweat. The internet is full of jokes about burning down a house because of a scary spider…. but I’ve legitimately considered it for even these inoffensive things. The difference? No preparation can help me overcome my crippling phobia of the eight legged demons.

Fear is both reasonable and overcome-able – phobias…. well, not so much.

So this is a long way of saying…. I’ve a phobia of groups of people. It gets a little better if I can remain anonymous. It gets a lot better when I’m no longer anonymous. We’ll be gathering after our first meeting for the bane of introverts: the meet and greet. I’m not looking forward to that. As I’ve mentioned before, the cane acts like a magnet to the curious. I’ll no doubt be surrounded in just minutes.

So, I’m having some anxiety.

But I’m here. And that’s an important step.

 

Despair and Hope

I find the relationship linking despair and hope to be fascinating. I just left the doctor for my monthly checkup. I’m on a very high dose of a very powerful drug (I won’t say which), but it provides little relief from my pain.

As I’ve said before, multiple doctors have confirmed that there is no solution for the causes of my pain: no surgery, no injections that we haven’t tried, no therapies, no magic pills. In short, my brokenness cannot be solved. I’ve come to peace with that fact, but it is nonetheless an unpleasant one. For me, the only long term plan is short term pain management.

I participate in some varied online forums. One is a forum dedicated to those of us with fibromyalgia. We call ourselves fibromites, and men being such an anomaly in the fibromyalgia world, I coined the term fibromates to describe those of us with the XY chromosomes. That forum is great. It gives us a group of peers that understand the struggles. It gives us a place to vent, complain, gripe, and moan. But more importantly, it gives us a positive environment for gentle hugs (figuratively). The community is one of uplifting and realistic optimism. We can seek advice and feedback from those who will be more helpful than the ol’ “pick yourself up by the bootstraps” feedback that is all too common toward the disabled communities.

Another forum is dedicated to those of us who struggle with chronic pain in general. A larger community gives us a greater spectrum of feedback and opinion. There are some who deal with neurological conditions, like fibromyalgia, and others with skeletal, muscular, or other conditions, including depression and anxiety. As you can imagine, at least on the surface, this is a more appropriate community for one like me: one who has neurological disorders, as well as muscular and skeletal disabilities, topped off with psychological or emotional disorders; in short, one who is in constant, chronic pain.

The sad truth truth concerning this second forum, however, is that the atmosphere is greatly different than the first. While the fibromyalgia forum is one of positive reinforcement and uplifting optimism, the chronic pain forum is negatively reinforcing. As you can imagine, for those who struggle constantly with the basic tasks of life, depression can set in pretty quickly, and even more powerfully. There, optimistic and hopeful comments are scoffed at and scorned. Weekly I see posts by people who literally are throwing in the proverbial towel: declaring in one open form or another “I can’t handle this pain anymore, I want to and am planning to die.” I mean that there is no equivocation and I’m not reading between the lines, there are literally people declaring the desire and/or plan for suicide. And worse, the community, in its complete understanding, supports the poster with morbid empathy, telling them that their decision is not only understandable, but perhaps even wise.

Empathetically, I understand the desire for death in the lowest of the lows. While these circumstances have never brought me to a suicidal point, I do understand. Even this morning, talking with Jeff, my exceptional pain specialist, I felt near despairing for that sentiment. The cold truth is that, as strong as my medications are, the best I can ever expect from them is about a %50 reduction in pain (and that’s just for my back, as these medications don’t and can’t address the fibromyalgia). I don’t get that much relief; I’m closer to %26-%30 reduction in pain… and that’s about as good as it gets. This truth is discouraging. Even if I make the (incorrect) assumption that my back will never worsen, my pain levels are about as low as they will ever be.

So I understand the desire for the pain to end at any cost… But I can’t agree with it. As Lehi said:

 “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so… righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility. Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God.”

In other words, without misery, there can be no joy. Without despair, there can be no hope. So we finally come to the fascinating relationship: there must be ‘opposition in all things.”

God doesn’t give us trials, pain, and misery; rather, he allows those things and turns them to our benefit if we turn to Him. Another prophet of God also empathized with despair:

“O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?…  O Lord God Almighty, maker of heaven, earth, and seas, and of all things that in them are, and who controllest and subjectest the devil, and the dark and benighted dominion of Sheol–stretch forth thy hand; let thine eye pierce; let thy pavilion be taken up; let thy hiding place no longer be covered; let thine ear be inclined; let thine heart be softened, and thy bowels moved with compassion toward [me].”

But in His wisdom, God replied:

“My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee… with warm hearts and friendly hands.”

So we see in His great Plan of Happiness that trial, tribulation, pain, misery, suffering and even the lowest despair are all allowed to exist in order to provide contrast to the joy, happiness, peace, comfort, salvation and hope that are to be found by the redeeming atonement of the Great Son of God.

I wish I could share this hope with those of my fellow sufferers on the chronic pain forum, but the voice of hope is regrettably not a welcome one. So I write instead here, where I dictatorially control what voices are allowed 😉.

I worry that the topic is heavy, but so is the burden that we all carry, whether you deal with physical pain or not, we all have burdens, trials, and pain. And all of us feel overwhelmed by it sometimes – that’s why understanding the relationship between pain and relief, between sadness and happiness, between despair and hope, is so important. That’s why we have hope: so that we can know the contrast between what we feel and experience now and what we can obtain through the promise of Him who took our burdens upon Himself.

Hope exists, not because we want it to, but because it is the very law of Nature: there must be opposition in all things.

So, my friends, don’t despair. There is hope for relief, even for those of us with the promise of none: after the time of trial, comes the reward of the faithful. Jesus Christ lives. He carried our burdens, so that we might be free of them eventually.