Monday, November 30, 2009

Sabbath Joy

A phone rang in sacrament meeting today.
It happened while a group of young men were passing the bread trays around the congregation. I'm not sure how many people noticed, but I'm certain I wasn't the only one.
But this ringing wasn't from a young woman who forgot to silence her phone during church. It wasn't an overworked father who needed to step out because "I have to take this."
It was the phone in the hallway. And it kept ringing.
Singles Wards are an interesting atmosphere. I've been attending one since I returned from a full-time mission nearly four years ago. And they never fail to impress me.
"But, Single Vegas Mormon, aren't singles wards are all about getting married? I know, because there's that creepy guy who keeps eyeballing me in church."
It's true that some church meetings and lessons revolve around the dreaded m-word and families. But that's no different than a typical family ward.
In case you long-time members haven't noticed, we belong to a church of families. The focus is on the family. Lessons are directed at the family. Everything we do is for the enrichment of the family.
So where do we, as Young Single Adults, fit into that plan?
Ultimately, we should be seeking out our own families. That could include dating and buscando novia, as my Latino friends call it. Or that could involve building up the families to which we currently belong — our parents, siblings, friends, roommates, or even ward families.
But I digress.
The reason I brought up the phone-ringing experience was to point out a phenomenon that seems to exist only in singles wards throughout the world: SILENCE.
I've been to many different wards in my life. And in no other have I felt a greater sense of peace and tranquility during the blessing and passing of the Sacrament than in my singles wards.
That's not to say that family wards et al don't have their advantages. Children bring a unique richness and vivacity to any organization that no amount of young single adults can. And the annual Primary Program held during the second half of Sacrament Meeting is a treat for any spectator, whether they have children or not.
But they don't usually add to the atmosphere of the sacrament, either. Communing with the Lord without the distractions of crying babies, nursing mothers, coloring-book-clad toddlers and small boys running up and down the aisles is a marvel.
I love being able to quietly contemplate my life, focus on the Savior and commune with my Heavenly Father while a group of stalwart men parade around the room passing bread and water. It makes my weekly church meetings worth the 5-10 minute drive to the chapel by the Temple.
So at this time of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the Sacrament. I am thankful for the chance to cast my burdens on the Lord and feel his love for me during that time of meditation and thought that we call a "church block."
And, yes, I am thankful for Singles Wards.

I forgot to post last week, and should have, with it being Thanksgiving and all. But a rare Monday post will have to do for all three of those fans of this blog out there.
I'm grateful for so many things this holiday season. I wasn't able to travel home for Thanksgiving, instead staying home for a dinner of frozen burritos and sweet corn (oh, and a chance to watch the Lions lose ... again!).
But it made me grateful for my family, my testimony and the companionship of the Holy Ghost. There is no better joy than knowing that you have a Father in Heaven who loves you, no matter where you are in the world or in what situation you find yourself.
So enjoy this amazing video from Mormon Messages, the official YouTube channel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I hate Utah, too!

Another year, another Holy War.
This year's annual BYU-Utah rivalry game didn't come attached with a BCS Bowl bid, nor a Mountain West Conference championship; TCU had already taken care of both of those.
But it did come with plenty of in-state bragging rights, and a chance for BYU quarterback Max Hall to avenge himself after throwing five interceptions and losing a fumble in last year's loss at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
And in 2009, Hall did just that. The senior QB had a fairly quiet night, but tossed a game-winning pass to tight end Andrew George in OT to give the home team a 26-23 victory and 2nd-place MWC finish.
But that's not the story.
By now you've already heard it; if not, Hall infuriated half of the state with a few comments made during the post-game press conference.
And why shouldn't he?
The senior had just beat the Utes for the second time in his career, making him 3-for-4 against the School Up North during his time at BYU. And all this despite a few bone-headed coaching decisions from none-other-than Robert Anae.
Hall's comments were not unjustified.
"I don't like Utah. In fact, I hate them. I hate everything about them. I hate their program, their fans. I hate everything," Hall said. "It felt really good to send those guys home."
And why wouldn't he?
The previous year, Hall's wife, Mckinzi, and his immediate family were at Rice-Eccles Stadium, sitting in the visitor's section for another Holy War game. As anyone who follows State of Utah sports knows, that was the same Utah team led by Brian Johnson that eventually knocked off Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
Hall threw 5 interceptions and had another fumble on the night, including a pair of embarrassing picks to Utah County-native and "Ute fan since I was born" Paul Kruger.
Furthermore, Hall's wife had beer thrown at her multiple times during the game. When his family tried to get out of the RES and back to their car, there were so many Ute fans harassing them, they had to find a security guard (an on-duty police officer, or so the rumor continues) to escort them to the parking lot.
And then there's the egregious sin:
A few smart-aleck students in the MUSS (that's "Mighty (Pathetic) Utah Student Section") brought a blow-up doll into the stadium, wrote "Max Hall's mom" on it, then proceeded to pass it around the section, with many drunk, immature college students... well, doing what drunk immature college students tend to do with blow-up dolls.
The day after offending the "Yewts," Max Hall issued a statement, clarifying his comments and name-calling tirade. But the damage had been done. Ute fans hated him, and Utah players, coaches and personnel won't respond to anything he said.

So, why does it matter?
If this were any other state, and any other conference, it wouldn't.
But the argument is that BYU, as the "flagship school of the Mountain West Conference" and "face of the LDS church," needs to represent themselves "better than that."
BYU football is, first and foremost, a football team. Bronco Mendenhall has said it before; his players represent the institution (school), but they are also just football players. The Cougars do not get involved in doctrinal discussions within the church (except for my weekly Sunday School class, "Doctrine of BYU Football by Elder Austin F. Collie"), and I don't recall Bronco ever making a statement about the church's campaign against Proposition 8 (hopefully, one of my three readers will correct me if I'm wrong).

But this is a rivalry game!
Rivalry's get bitter; they get bloody; they get nasty and full of hate. That's what makes games such as Florida-Florida State, Oklahoma-Texas, Kansas-Mizzou, or USC-UCLA so interesting for the casual fan to watch.
There is genial animosity between schools with long-standing traditions and consistent playing abilities. And ever since the Urban Meyer days, BYU-Utah has been no different. Sure, LaVell Edwards and Ron McBride were great friends off the field. But ever since McBride's successor showed up in SLC, there's been a different Ute attitude toward "The School Down South" (classy title, Urrrrban!).
Hall's comments were simply a statement of what most fans already think, on both sides of the Point of the Mountain. My neighbor was a Ute fan growing up in Provo (I even visited him and his family with my first home teaching assignment), and we would always try to poke fun at the other school's expense. Sure, we liked each other, and still took the sacrament in the same congregation on Sunday, but ever Saturday, it was a who-beats-who (no matter the game).

I know BYU fans have had numerous run-ins with Utah fans that I am not proud to hear. But the level of raucous boasting and "fun" that Ute supporters exhibit has been ratcheted up a notch from what I've seen BYU fans exhibit. And I've seen my fair-share of jaunting, jeering, spitting and even slapping Utah fans, especially when they try to wander into the student section at the Marriott Center (kick him out! kick him out!).
But when a friend gets in his BYU-licensed/stickered car to drive from South Jordan, Utah to downtown Salt Lake City, and receives no fewer than FOUR middle-fingered salutes, you know the rivalry is getting crazy. And I can GUARANTEE NO BYU FAN HAS EVER TOSSED AROUND A BLOW-UP DOLL with Brian Johnson or Jordan Wynn's "mom" on it.
As for the supposed BYU-supporter who "struck" Sister Whittingham spouted off some inane comment in the mass exodus to rush the field: Kick. Him. Out. No woman deserves to be belittled, taunted, jeered, struck or doused in beer — no matter if her last name is Hall or Whittingham. THAT is classless — if you're a "Coog" or a "Yewt."

So, Utah fans, take Hall's remarks for what they are: simple rivalry salutes. Sure, they are similar to Austin Collie and his "magic happens" postures. But they are also similar to Paul Kruger ("I've hated BYU since the day I was born"), Steve Tate ("I hate BYU... I hate BYU... *wah wah wah*"), former center Kyle Gunther ("I learned from guys who played before me like Jesse Boone to hate BYU and some of the younger guys are going to learn from me."), or this tirade on national television, courtesy of Morgan Scalley.
The Holy War is here to stay. And even in a year where the actual game means nothing in the standings, Max Hall has shown us just that.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Faith in every... faith?

I had an interesting experience regarding religion this week. I know, that seems odd, coming from a prep sports copy editor at a non-Utah-based newspaper. But it happened.

I was interviewing a few volleyball players at a Christian Academy in Las Vegas (at a school that could probably fit inside your local neighborhood WalMart), trying to come up with a good storyline for the upcoming State Volleyball Tournament. The coach and players at this particular school were all "Christians" (which I assume means born-again, but there's no conclusive proof to that assumption), and many of their quotes ended with "glorifying God," or "give thanks to God."

Normally, I feel uncomfortable around this unabashed bearing of one's faith when I know the reaction they would get if I were to do the same thing for Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon. But this time, it wasn't so bad. I could sense that these girls had a real sense of purpose from knowing God, and trying to be disciples of Jesus Christ. They were trying to follow Him as best they could with the limited knowledge they possessed. How badly I wanted to leave a few Pass-Along Cards, or a free copy of the Book of Mormon at that school!

But I knew the reaction that would get. And I'm not into proselyting like a missionary while I'm on the job. I prefer to share the Gospel with those that I know, and others who are searching for the truth.

Back to the point at hand...

I felt the Spirit in that "Christian Academy." Sure, it wasn't the same measure I feel during Sacrament Meeting, or when I attend the Temple. But those kids really believed what they were taught. And it made them better people. So I'm not going to belittle their beliefs just because I feel that I have something more.

Brigham Young once said that all truth belongs to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as currently constituted in the Church. So these other religions that have a piece of that truth can still rejoice in the Gospel as they know it ... but they can also realize that there is more light and knowledge out there, ready to be accepted.

And for those that wish to accept it, you can start here.


I love the Mormon Messages YouTube channel. This is an older video, but I just re-viewed it, and I was incredibly touched and impressed by the words of true Prophets and Apostles of the Lord, Jesus Christ, in this message. Check it out.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Uchtdorf speaks ... to a Single Mormon in Vegas

Welcome, welcome, Sabbath morning ... or, rather, Sabbath evening.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, 2nd Counselor in the First Presidency of the LDS church, delivered an amazing speech at the most recent CES Fireside on Sunday, 1 November 2009. While Uchtdorf's plea was to help Young Single Adults view themselves as the Lord does, the longest and most-attentive section involved Dating and Courtship (no surprise there, right? I mean, it was a CES Fireside for Young Single Adults).
While much of his counsel has been spoken by many local and General Authorities in the past, President Uchtdorf's witty insight, fervent testimony and real-life application was a breathe of fresh air for a 24-year-old recent college graduate with no long-term possibilities. In fact, this fireside rejuvenated me in my desire for a meaningful relationship and the necessary leg-work to find such a relationship.
But why take my word for it; check out the replay of the Fireside for yourself.
President Uchtdorf address three questions that he said had been commonly sent to him in letters and e-mails from YSA throughout the church in the past year. I'll go through them one-by-one, as I thoroughly enjoyed each point:

1. "Knowing that I am a child of God, what need I do or be to live up to my potential?"
Depression and self-doubt are not in the Lord's plan. As one of His children, you are entitled to be happy, although such happiness will not happy every day of your life. Even the happiest individual has occasional days of sadness and pain. But there is a key to overcoming such days:
Things that fill your soul with hope are always connected with serving God and serving your fellow man.
"If your heart has been heavy for a while," Uchtdorf said, "perhaps it is time to let the light of the Son of God into your life."
The Gospel is based on the Plan of Happiness, not plan of depression or somberness. Allowing gospel principles to permeate your life, through study, prayer, service and good friends can have a dramatic influence on your life.

2. "Will I ever find my soulmate?"
This is likely the question with which most YSA in the church struggle on a near-daily basis. It's even a thought that plagues me, the great Single Vegas Mormon, fairly often.
There is not one single person out there who is meant to marry another person; no one wife for each man, nor one husband for each woman. But worry not — you still have a soulmate.
"Once you commit to be married, your spouse becomes your soulmate," Uchtdorf said.
That doesn't mean any relationship you are in will be perfect. Perfection in a marriage or courtship relationship requires work from both parties.
"The only perfect people you might know are those you don't know very well."
So if there isn't one particular soulmate out there, start dating. The secret to finding the girl of your dreams, according to Uchtdorf, is to meet many of them. And then, when you fall in love, ask her to marry you.
Of you are rejected, be prepared to move on if the answer is 'no.'
In the meantime, don't wait for marriage to make your life complete. Immerse yourself in your education, your career, and your ward and calling.

3. "Can I remain faithful?"
Satan will always try to get us to deviate from the path we have chosen. His temptations are often intriguing, beautiful and appear lavish, much like the most beautiful thunderstorms and hurricanes. But don't be fooled.
"Temptation wouldn't be temptation if it didn't appear attractive, fascinating or even fun," Uchtdorf continued.
It is not a sin to ask questions; indeed, we are a question-asking people. The church was restored because a 14-year-old boy asked a question in the woods outside Palmyra, N.Y.
"Asking questions is not a sign of weakness, but a precursor of growth ... Always hold fast to the faith and light you have received. Everything won't make sense to you at first," because if it did, this gospel wouldn't be from God. Remember, His thoughts are higher than your thoughts, and His ways higher than your ways.
But if we don't ask, we'll never receive.

A quick note on journalism and the church: you'll notice this blog post appears to be in chronological order. But it is not. I have simply summarized the most-appealing insights and applications into my life at this time. When recounting an event such as this CES Fireside, don't feel like you need to go through each item one-by-one in the order President Uchtdorf delivered them. Be sporadic; talk about each issue as you were influenced. In other words, don't be like this guy.