Shall the Youth of Zion Falter?

The temple has been re-opened in Tonga. Let me just say, I love temples; everything about the temple has already brought a joy to my life I never thought I would have. Performing temple work for my ancestors has restored unity in my family; something I never dreamed would happen. Seeing that a temple has been re-opened for the Tongan people is wonderful news, and I'm sure that the members in Tonga are overjoyed.

I was talking to a friend of mine today, who happens to be a member of the Church. He was joking and telling stories about his relationship with his (non-member) girlfriend. He carried on long enough and in such a way that I became concerned. In response to his remarks, I reminded him that if he chooses to date, he needs to be protective of that girl's virtue, if not more reverent about it. Regardless of whether or not she is a member of the Church, he needs to respect her enough to do that for her. Our conversation continued, progressing to tithing. He made a comment that he hadn't paid his tithing in over 3 years, and my brow furrowed. I asked him if his bishop knew. He said that he tells his bishop that he doesn't pay his tithing in every interview, and his bishops always says, "Now you get that taken care of," and then allows my friend to go to the temple to perform baptisms. I sighed, and ended the conversation. I didn't have the heart to hear any more.

I imagine the brothers and sisters in Tonga; how grateful they must be to once again have the Lord's sacred house open in their country. Before the temple was built, members would have been required to travel to New Zealand, or one of the other surrounding island nations that are also fortunate to have even one temple. I think of the Tongan members that might not have been able to afford such travel expenses, and how their spiritual growth was impeded because of circumstances beyond their control. In all honesty, I don't want to fathom how frustrating that would be.

And I don't have to. A trip to the Washington DC temple requires a drive that takes less than two hours. The trip is usually made in large groups with air-conditioned vehicles. And yet there are youth like my friend that have the experience all but given to him. He does not live entirely worthy to have the experience, nor does he intend to improve. He takes his spiritual decay upon himself, and I am just baffled.

I have been on the Bloggernacle long enough to know that a variety of opinions exist regarding the temple. I've read the personal narratives of both men and women that resent everything about the temple, and many things about the Church. I would hate to think that I am looking into the future of my friend every time I read those narratives. As a child of God, he deserves so much more than he is providing for himself, as do the authors of that writing.

I would urge us all to remember the youth of our branches and wards, whether they are our children or not. As someone who sees the other side of the Youth of Zion, I can honestly say that they falter in ways that are painful to watch on a daily basis. But there has to be something we all can do so that things don't have to be this way. Are there others in your ward or branch that also falter? Is there anything you can do to help? Could helping them be as easy as asking if all is well, and listening to them voice their needs? And if helping wasn't that easy, would you still try?

It makes sense that the temples, the house of the Lord, should be so central in the lives of humanity. They represent the home we left, and the eternal home that should mean more to us than anything. They are houses of order and peace that are meant to reaffirm to us that our Heavenly Father loves us all. Are we doing enough to take ourselves there, and to bring our friends and neighbors with us?

How many lives have to be lost, how many hearts have to break, before we will stand up and say, "No more," and take action?

Originally posted on Waters of Mormon
September 29, 2007


"Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more
than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject."

--Joseph Smith, Nauvoo, Illinois, October 9, 1843, History of the Church, 6:50

A Gardener of Thought

A few updates:
  • I finally got my Shakespeare class put into my schedule. I started today with Macbeth, which is both a new and familiar play at the same time. The first time I read that play was at two in the morning, which does not come with a Paradox seal of approval.
  • I founded the Shakespeare Society, and the first meeting is tomorrow after school. Needless to say, I. Am. Excited!
  • I had my first meeting with the school publications class. As soon as I introduced myself as the editor, the hostility could have smacked me in the face. But by the time the meeting was over, we all left with the saccharine flavor of opportunity in our mouths. I just sent an e-mail full of writing and logistical proposals to the supervisor. After Shakespeare Society, I have to meet with her to hear her feedback and to put the production of our first paper into motion.
  • I am writing application essays for my intended colleges. I should mention that 300 words or less is an art form I have yet to master. I think if I approach them as poetry without the elaborate metaphors, I will be in better shape.
  • And on top of everything else, I wrote a talk on heeding prophetic council, which I gave this past Sunday. The talk I wrote and outlined, and the talk I actually gave were a little dissimilar. The spirit does not like my outlines, but you will not hear me complaining.
  • The best news: I was contacted by an editor from the Online NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS. Their student site, NewsHour Extra, will feature an editorial written by yours truly about the Romney campaign. (Thanks again to John over at Exceedingly Curious for being the world's best proofreader!)
As you can see, I have been deeply involved with language in both verbal and written form. Because of that fact, I am loving every minute of my life these days. Reading, writing, and public speaking have always been branches on the same tree for me; and consider that metaphor. The world is full of trees of every variety (genre), and each has their specific needs (research), as well as survival needs (carefully crafted rhetoric and a lasting message). How well these trees are taken care of will determine whether or not their fruit is consumable by humanity. Pruning and careful preparation (editing and revision) are essential to a healthy final product. In that sense, I consider myself a gardener of thought.

As a part of my seminary studies, I was reading Moses 6, and the following passage caught my attention:
32 And the Lord said unto Enoch: Go forth and do as I have commanded thee, and no man shall pierce thee. Open thy mouth, and it shall be filled, and I will give thee utterance, for all flesh is in my hands, and I will do as seemeth me good.

33 Say unto this people: Choose ye this day, to serve the Lord God who made you.

34 Behold my Spirit is upon you, wherefore all thy words will I justify; and the mountains shall flee before you, and the rivers shall turn from their course; and thou shalt abide in me, and I in you; therefore walk with me.

From my college application essays, I have been asking the question, "What makes me different from all of the others that look exactly like me? What makes me special?"

The difference in my writing is that I know who the tree really belongs to, and who makes it grow. I may apply the things that I learn in order to produce sweet fruit, but I do not create the blossoms. What I have is nothing more or less than a gift from Heavenly Father. The poems, the stories, the articles, the essays are sweet because they reflect His life inside of me. His life, not mine, is what has led me down a writer's road less traveled.

And like Robert Frost's road "less travelled by," my decision to walk with the Him, leaving forests behind me, "has made all the difference."

We Shall Not Forget

"We shall not forget."

"United We Stand."

Remember those bumper stickers and T-shirts? The ribbons and yellow magnets? The store signs and the moments of silence? The American flag on every other house and car? The days when, if it was a flat surface, it had a flag on it? Do we remember?

Our school had a moment of silence today, and it was less than 10 seconds long. I thought I would have time to say a prayer, but no dice. I guess the silence just gets too heavy for some people...

I insist that I'm no better than the rest of them. Even I managed to forget what day it was, and my patriotic shirts remained in their color-coded position in my closet. I feel as if I managed to forget the promise I made to myself the first time I went to Ground Zero, when I promised to do all in my power to keep 9/11 from happening again. That promise meant the world to me, but where is it now?

And sometimes I think, "What can one girl like me ever do to stop a monstrosity like 9/11?"

When those towers fell, and that plane crashed, and those walls crumbled in Arlington, a monster was revealed for all the world to see. At the time, we knew the face of evil; hate mongers who would kill innocent people. Osama bin Laden drove our Orwellian Two Minutes of Hate, and we loathed and despised him for everything he represented to us. We swore in our hearts that we would never forget the face of the enemy. We promised ourselves that justice would be served.

I ask myself today, where are all of those promises now?

Tucked away in closets like old t-shirts that come out three times a year; Memorial Day, the 4th, and 9/11, if at all?

The hijackers of the 9/11 suicide flights sought to unleash a monster upon us. Our country was supposed to divide, crumble, and fall. Chaos was supposed to descend upon us like a plague. And because that never happened, we assumed we were safe. We returned to our lives, and the flags came down. The yellow ribbons became tattered. The bumper stickers became the empty promises that they are today. And in our state of complacency, we see the true enemy. And it's closer to home than we ever imagined.

I have met too many soldiers to ever believe that this war is not worth fighting. Wars may be started by Machiavellian leadership, but do they fight the battles? No. I wonder, at times like these, if the war that our leaders have declared is the same war that our soldiers are fighting. I wonder if the Iraq that we hear about in the media (the hopeless, lost cause that is the United States biggest failure since Vietnam,) is the same Iraq that is free of Hussein; free of the sons who raped the women of a ravaged nation; free to speak for themselves under their own constitution; free to pick themselves up as soon as they gather their strength; free to become the peaceful nation, a fresh start, for the Middle East.

I try hard not to think about how disappointed our Father in Heaven must be with us at times when He sees how we treat each other. Today of all days, two boys got into a fight as I was trying to get on the bus to go home. I couldn't continue walking for fear of being caught in the middle of their brawl, so I stood and watched with disappointed eyes.

"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (Luke 23: 34)

We were told, "Love one another; as I have loved you." (John 13: 34-5) And in 2000 years, how many of our brothers and sisters have remembered this "new commandment"?

Not enough.

If we ever want to grow beyond yellow ribbons, our fathers and mothers dying in battlefields, our brothers throwing punches, and our children living in an age of fear and violence, we have to start applying what we have learned! We need to remember what we have been taught long enough to use it!

Otherwise, our hope will be the next casualty; in which case, we will all be held accountable:

"Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me." (Matthew 25: 45)


Iron-Fists & Priesthood Blessings

"Who among us can say that he or she has not felt fear? I know of no one who has been entirely spared. Some, of course, experience fear to a greater degree than do others. Some are able to rise above it quickly, but others are trapped and pulled down by it and even driven to defeat. We suffer from the fear of ridicule, the fear of failure, the fear of loneliness, the fear of ignorance. Some fear the present, some the future. Some carry the burden of sin and would give almost anything to unshackle themselves from those burdens but fear to change their lives. Let us recognize that fear comes not of God, but rather that this gnawing,destructive element comes from the adversary of truth and righteousness. Fear is the antithesis of faith. It is corrosive in its effects, even deadly.

'For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind' (2 Timothy 1:7).

We need not fear as long as we have in our lives the power that comes from righteously living by the truth which is from God our Eternal Father.

Nor need we fear as long as we have the power of faith." Gordon B. Hinckley
This week has proved to be no more productive than last week as far as my Shakespeare project is concerned. Frustrating? You bet. Every other word to my friends the second I saw them on Saturday was either "Shakespeare," "independent study," "principal," "bureaucrats," "administration," "irresponsible," "stupid," or "ridiculous." I knew that my frustration had reached a dangerous level by the middle of the week, and I was fully aware that I was spewing poison by Friday. I requested a blessing from the first priesthood holder I could find, which didn't happen until Monday. But as always, the blessing I received was worth the wait.

Patience, charity, the boldness to act (and not merely to be acted upon), and to find the answers I need in the scriptures; these are the highlights of the blessing that was given to me. In hindsight, and in light of the latest (lack of) development with the my high school administration, I see now why I need all of these specific gifts of the Spirit.

I chose the supervisors I did to avoid having to work with the head English teacher, with whom I have worked in the past. She is usually in charge of whatever play or musical our school performs, but having worked with her on a student production in my sophomore year, I wanted to avoid repeating the experience like a plague. But when I reminded my principal for the third time that he was supposed to pull me out of class to speak with me, he finally told me to "Go speak with Mrs. Morrison, and then I'll talk to her." I can see this meaning one of two things: he wants her to do the dirty work of telling me off by accusing me of creating a conflict of interest for whatever play she intends to perform (without buying the rights to, of course), or he envisions my project being something that could engage the student body culturally without requiring as much money as her interests, and wants her to consider what I have to offer. Considering he hasn't looked me in the eye once the entire time I've been trying to get his attention, I don't give him that much credit.

Could this be a turn of events that could benefit the project? Maybe. Who can say for sure? But I've dedicated almost a year of my time to bringing Shakespeare to Liberalville somehow. And now, I have more than natural stubbornness backing me up at this point. I've seen the power of priesthood blessings in the past. I have no problem believing that Liberalville might just get turned on its ear by something a little more powerful than my stubbornness. Maybe I just wasn't supposed to make the attempt on my own.

Regardless, I refuse to let the fear of rejection to keep me from trying to leave Liberalville, and my life here, in better condition than I found it. I won't just fade into the background like my principal seems to wish so desperately that I would. I've had plenty of practice holding on when the "popular," "safe," and "acceptable" thing to do has been to let go. (Honestly, does he have ANY idea who he's dealing with here?)

Thank God for iron fists and priesthood blessings. I have learned, and have a firm testimony of the fact, that I can turn to the latter when I need the former.

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