Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Random Beauty

I want to say that I randomly started thinking about randomness, but I'm pretty sure there was a trigger. (So it couldn't have been random.)

I probably heard someone say, "Here's a totally random question..." and then ask a question that entirely related to what was being discussed.

But I probably don't understand what others mean by random.

In a post long ago (link), I wrote about taking classes in probability and statistics in musings on randomness. Here's a repeated quote from one of my professors:

There is no 'random.' What we perceive as randomness is the result of our inability to understand what is going on. We simply don't have a good enough model yet to understand the event in question.

So what is random?

Is there beauty in randomness?

I wanted to create a bit of analytical random art to answer the second question. Here's what I came up with:

Do you see any beauty here? (I do!)

Here's a brief explanation: I distributed 400 points (20 high, 20 across) on x and y axes and let the size of the points vary randomly across ten values (between zero and nine) using Excel's Random function.

You may say, "Sure, it's beautiful, but it's hardly random!"

I agree! Note that I placed randomly sized points (of only ten different values) in ordered spaces. Of possibly three variables, only one is slightly random.

If you feel cheated, imagine how dirty I feel having tried to pull such a sneaky trick!

Here's another interpretation of randomness with the same question as before; is there beauty in randomness?

Do you see any beauty here? (I do, again!)

Explanation: This time, the 400 points' x and y values can be anywhere between 0 and 20, and the size of the points still varies randomly, but any value is allowed.

So, which version of "random" is more beautiful to you? -OR- Which would you rather hang on your wall?

And don't just "randomly" choose one!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Power of the Aaronic Priesthood

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

The Power of the Aaronic Priesthood, by Keith B. McMullin
Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric

I called my neighbor the other day to ask if we could drop off something my son wanted to give her. Even though it wasn't a good time, I was told that we could leave the note by the front door.

This is a simple exchange between neighbors, between friends. But she seemed to anticipate what was being dropped off and beat us to the punch. You see, we wanted to deliver a thank you note that my eight-yr-old wrote thanking her for attending his baptism. However, before we could give a simple gesture of thanks, my neighbor gushed with thanks for inviting her. She told me how she loved being inside a Mormon church and seeing how we do baptisms. Furthermore, she absolutely loved that it is the fathers who baptized their sons at our service.

We chatted just a bit more, and as I hung up the phone, one word came to mind: Duty.

I remembered this as I read Bishop McMullin's talk today. He said "Duty, properly carried out, determines the destiny of peoples and nations."

When I think of destiny, I think of two things: Darth Vader telling Luke about his so-called destiny on the Dark Side, and George McFly butchering a pick-up line in Back to the Future.

However, when I think of duty and destiny, I think about the priesthood.

There seems to have been an increased emphasis on the differences between the Power of the priesthood and the Authority of the priesthood lately. (Perhaps it's just that this is a lesson that I'm supposed to learn.) Bishop McMullin quoted President Packer and added a sentence of his own at the end:

"We have done very well at distributing the authority of the priesthood. We have priesthood authority planted nearly everywhere. … But distributing the authority of the priesthood has raced, I think, ahead of distributing the power of the priesthood." For the everlasting welfare of God’s children, this must be remedied.

As I've had the opportunity to prepare for and perform ordinances for my son, namely baptism and confirmation, I've thought a lot about the difference between authority and power. I probably should have been doing this all along, but when I would make decisions, I would often ask myself, "Self, how would this affect the power of the priesthood you're authorized to exercise?"

And yes, I do refer to myself as "self."

I'm grateful for the priesthood. For its authority and power! I'm also grateful for the duty (and associated responsibilities) I have as a father.

And unlike Vader, I'll try to appropriately fulfill my duty to teach my son about his destiny (it's not with the Dark Side).

I'll also help him understand the difference between destiny and density.

Monday, February 27, 2012

We Are All Enlisted

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

We Are All Enlisted, by Jeffrey R. Holland
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Shortly after graduating from high school, I moved to Texas and lived with my sister and her husband who were both active-duty military serving in the Army. No longer living with my parents at home, this was the first time I conscientiously decided who I was going to be and what I was going to do. As I ventured off to church each Sunday—making the decision to go—I sometimes felt alone. There I sat, on the back row of the chapel, often all alone.

In this trying time, there was a frequent hymn that was sung in our services that helped me feel like I belonged with this group of saints—many of whom were active-duty military: We Are All Enlisted (link).

Sure, I wasn't in the military, but I got the message. I could do something to contribute as part of God's Army, if you will. I understood, as Elder Holland reminded, that the line of the song that reads, "We are waiting now for soldiers; who'll volunteer?" wasn't a call to arms. At least not in the traditional sense.

Of course, the great thing about this call to arms is that we ask not for volunteers to fire a rifle or throw a hand grenade. No, we want battalions who will take as their weapons "every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God" (D&C 84:44). So I am looking tonight for missionaries who will not voluntarily bind their tongues but will, with the Spirit of the Lord and the power of their priesthood, open their mouths and speak miracles.

Army of One
Army of Two-by-Two

The time I spent at Fort Hood seemed to be my personal basic training before I enlisted full-time in God's Army as a full-time missionary. I worked hard and had the smile of someone who knew he was making a difference!

Interestingly, a soon-to-be-departing missionary spoke in our ward yesterday. He has a military background and made these same comparisons between the World's Best Green Army and the Lord's Army of missionaries. As he spoke, I admit that I started to do what I did when I listened to Elder Holland's talk; I sat back congratulating myself on a job well done.

Of course, I'm not done! My service isn't limited to two years spent more than ten long years ago! Elder Holland spoke of the need for couples to serve, too.

Way back when I was a full-time missionary, we would say to picture those we were teaching in white. We meant, of course, the white baptismal clothes they would wear when they made the sacred covenants of baptism as well as the white clothes they would wear in the Lord's House, the temple.

After returning home and while courting my girlfriend, I would sometimes likewise picture her and me in white, kneeling at a sacred alter as we made covenants associated with eternal marriage.

Now that I'm reminded of the need for couples to "join the ranks," I picture myself and my girlfriend (now my wife) in white again. This time it's our hair that's white! We're older, lovingly serving the Lord as missionaries. Together!

I know that I can't sit back in a self-congratulatory mood and wait for my hair to turn white before I "Haste to the battle," as the hymn charges. I'm going to spend my time helping my little batch of future soldiers, future missionaries.


Here's a great music video I kept thinking of while writing this blog post:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear, by L. Tom Perry
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

I often think I'm terrible at communicating. Outside of my wife and children, I rarely talk with other members of my family. I have only a few friends, and we rarely-if-ever spend time together outside of church meetings, time at work, or chance encounters. I'm cordial with my neighbors (they're all great, really), but we never do anything together.

On the other hand, I maintain an e-presence through YouTube videos, blog posts (ta-da!), facebook status updates, my family website, and email conversations.

I'm convinced that the best way to reach me is electronically. It's probably because I can respond at my convenience (I know, it sounds pretty selfish), and I don't have to worry about intruding on others lives at bad times.

Wow, I sure sound pathetic.

Having disclosed this, I want to assert that I'm truly happy and that I really want others to be happy—I just don't do anything about it in person, apparently.

Elder Perry's talk gave me some comfort when he spoke of the untrained masses—people who use digital communication to share the gospel and discuss Church happiness and beliefs:

At all times of the day across the entire world, the Church and its teachings are being discussed on the Internet, on blogs and social networks, by people who have never written for a newspaper or a magazine. They are making videos and sharing them online. These are ordinary people—both members of our faith and of other faiths—who are talking about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It seems that I'm not alone in my way of life.

Having called upon members to advance understanding of the Church, Elder Perry gave a list of suggested ideas. I took these to heart to see if I'm already doing any of them (because it's easier to check an existing practice off of a list than start doing something new!):

  1. Be bold in our declaration of Jesus Christ
  2. Be righteous examples to others
  3. Speak up about the Church

That's it. Three easy things!

How have I been doing? Here are the examples that came to my mind:

Be bold in our declaration of Jesus Christ
I have a hobby of making videos. One of the favorites that I've put together focuses on Christ:

Be righteous examples to others
You're reading one of the examples of being an example that came to my mind: this blog! In addition, we put pictures of our happy family (with sometimes-silly captions) on our family website. I don't think many people ever look at the site, but it's there waiting for them.

Speak up about the Church
I think that everyone who knows me knows that I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When I do actually talk to people in person, I'm not surprised at how often we talk about religion, God, or faith. In addition, I have one of the profiles that Elder Perry mentioned:

I'm a Mormon.

I admit that this post has a heavy self-congratulatory tone. "Look at how great I am" it seems to scream. Instead of seeing it that way, I'm trying to convince myself that Elder Perry's promise that "a spirit of love and a spirit of courage will be your constant companion" is already being fulfilled, and that I can take up his charge to "take advantage of the opportunities gives to us to share our beliefs."

I know I need a lot of work. But I'm trying to do something good.

At least online, as I hide behind my computer.

(But I'm not really hiding. Honest!)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Divine Gift of Repentance

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

The Divine Gift of Repentance, by D. Todd Christofferson
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Whenever you teach a lesson to children on the topic of repentance, the Church has a caveat printed in the manual. Its purpose is to remind that children younger than eight years old have no need of repentance—they still benefit from learning, but they don't need to repent because they haven't been baptized.

Here's what the manuals actually say:

Note: Remember that children younger than eight years old are not yet accountable and do not need to repent of sin. Encourage the children to do what is right, but do not make them feel guilty for things they have done.

Despite this warning, too often you'll see otherwise-well-intentioned teachers telling young children that they need to repent of sins they are incapable of even committing.

I actually remember learning about this as a teenager; I think I can even remember who my teacher was—this is a big deal for me because I seem to have forgotten much of my youth (perhaps because I've tried to repent of my many, many mistakes...). Here's the point: I remember actually wishing I had known this before I turned eight so I could get some more bad behavior in!

Can you believe it? I was longing for repentance-free pre-eight-years-old rebelliousness.

To my shame, the great teacher, seemingly anticipating this very reaction, said that if someone were to long for the very things I was longing for, it was a surefire proof that they were in need of repentance and likely didn't have a pure heart, let alone clean hands (see Psalm 24:3-4).

I've long been grateful for repentance, but Elder Christofferson said something that I had never considered:

Repentance is a divine gift, and there should be a smile on our faces when we speak of it.

Smiling when talking of repentance? Usually people are crying and sniffling when they talk of repentance. What can we do to remember this great advice? Here's the smiling quote in a bigger context:

Only through repentance do we gain access to the atoning grace of Jesus Christ and salvation. Repentance is a divine gift, and there should be a smile on our faces when we speak of it. It points us to freedom, confidence, and peace. Rather than interrupting the celebration, the gift of repentance is the cause for true celebration.

I think a happy image of the need to repent is in order. Consider the following play on the familiar Tide laundry detergent image and associated happy-clean-good-feelings commercials I grew up with conveyed:

Don't these happy colors make you want to smile when you talk of repentance?

Yes, Elder Christofferson reminded that "sorrow and regret and bitter tears often accompany [repentance]," but he also taught "whatever the cost of repentance, it is swallowed up in the joy of forgiveness." And while the end of that mashed-together quote doesn't have an exclamation point at the end, I think it should have one.

Here, I have one to spare: {!}

Thanks to Elder Christofferson, I will try to remember to smile each time I teach of repentance. After all, I smile inside when I remember that I've been made clean through the repentance Christ's atonement makes possible for me.

Even cleaner than clothes laundered with Tide.*

*I just hope I don't need to repent for borrowing the Tide logo to make a point. A happy point, I might add.

Monday, February 13, 2012


This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Redemption, by LeGrand R. Curtis Jr.
Of the Seventy

Elder Curtis used some of the names or titles of Christ to share His roles as savior and redeemer. Whenever the names of Christ are discussed, I'm reminded of a specific song. Coincidentally, I mentioned it in my last post!

Sacraments and Symbols is the song on Steven Kapp Perry's "Come to the House of the Lord" (link) that first interested me in the album. It evokes a deep, almost Gregorian chant feel as it mentions many of Christ's titles and connects them to daily life (at least in my listening).

Here are the lyrics to Sacrament and Symbols:

Lamb of God, Morning Star,
Cornerstone and Rock.
Brazen Serpent and True Vine,
Shepherd of the flock.

Sacraments and symbols open up my mind--
pointing to a world waiting behind them.
Simple bread and water represent the Christ.
Even daily bread serves to remind!
Symbols of his life, of his sacrifice
'till the symbols are not needed to see.

Wheat and tares, scattered seeds,
Bridegroom at the feast.
Buried in a watery grave
then from death released.

Sacrament and symbols open up my mind--
pointing to a world waiting behind them,
concealing and revealing truth in every line,
Gifts that those who seek surely may find

(repeat chorus)

Every world,
every life,
testifies of Christ!

Lamb of God, Morning Star,
give me eyes to see.

Like Elder Curtis, I enjoy hearing stories of redemption. My favorite, though, is my own story.

I have been—and continue to be—redeemed from sin through the Atonement of Christ. The titles and symbols of Christ remind me of His power and the joy that has come to my life!

I enjoy cooking. My family does many things with whole wheat. We have a recipe for rolls that we love. Whenever I'm having one of these rolls, I break it in half and think of Christ. I'm reminded of the sacrament and think of the second verse of the hymn Jesus of Nazareth, Savior and King (link):

While of this broken bread
Humbly we eat,
Our thoughts to thee are led
In rev'rence sweet.
Bruised, broken, torn for us
On Calvary's hill—
Thy suff'ring borne for us
Lives with us still.

Friday, February 10, 2012

It Is Better to Look Up

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

It Is Better to Look Up, by Carl B. Cook
Of the Seventy

Long ago I approached a saleswoman in a LDS bookstore. I was looking for the CD that contained a certain song I had heard. After brief describing the song, she assured me that she knew exactly which album I was looking for. I asked her if she recommended it, because I was hesitant to purchase a CD if I had only heard one song. "Oh yes," she reassured me, "in fact, there's another song that I like even more. Just thinking about it gives me excited chills right now!"

Which song inspired such a reaction from this helpful woman?

It's called Look Up!

I was looking for the song, Sacraments and Symbols, but found a great album that I still listen to today. (It's "Come to the House of the Lord", by Steven Kapp Perry, link.)

The Look Up! song encourages us to remember who we really are, and where our course really lies. Its message is similar to something that Elder Cook shared from an encounter with President Monson.

While riding in an elevator after a difficult day, Elder Cook stared at the floor. Someone entered at another floor and asked, "What are you looking at down there?" It was, of course, President Monson. After a brief noncommittal response, President Monson reminded, "It is better to look up!" When later leaving the elevator, he reminded, "Now remember, it is better to look up!"

Look up!

In addition to the encouragement to "exercise our faith and look to God for help," the two words, look up, remind me of something I heard LDS speaker John Bytheway say. While speaking of references in scripture that contain these very words, look up, John asked listeners why the directionality was included.

"Why would we look up?", he asks.

When we ultimately see/meet Christ, if we are prepared, we will be on our knees and trying to hide under a rock.

That's why we'll look up.

We'll literally look up to Christ then if we live our lives looking up to Him with faith!

As President Monson taught Elder Cook in an elevator, "It is better to look up!"

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Time to Prepare

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

A Time to Prepare, by Ian S. Ardern
Of the Seventy

I'm using my lunch break to review these general conference talks and record my impressions of them (thanks for reading, btw). What a great use of my time!

Time is never for sale; time is a commodity that cannot, try as you may, be bought at any store for any price. Yet when time is wisely used, its value is immeasurable.

Before I pat myself on the back and congratulate myself on mastering this talk's central purpose, I had better study a bit more.

Elder Ardern encourages us to wisely use our time. In fact, while listening to him give the talk live, I wanted to know more about who Eldern Ardern is. You see, I was intrigued by his soothing Kiwi (New Zealand) accent. Pulling out my smart phone, I turned to Wikipedia to look him up.

Right as my mind drifted from the message to read about the speaker, I heard him say something that caught my attention—you might say I was smartphowned!

It is wonderful to have the means of instant communication quite literally at our fingertips, but let us be sure that we do not become compulsive fingertip communicators. I sense that some are trapped in a new time-consuming addiction—one that enslaves us to be constantly checking and sending social messages and thus giving the false impression of being busy and productive.

I was caught! Sure, I had deleted many games from my phone six months earlier after realizing how much time I was wasting (read more here), but I still found ways to be distracted by that thing!

I paid much closer attention to the rest of his talk after being caught red-handed. I particularly liked the following:

I know our greatest happiness comes as we tune in to the Lord (see Alma 37:37) and to those things which bring a lasting reward, rather than mindlessly tuning in to countless hours of status updates, Internet farming, and catapulting angry birds at concrete walls. I urge each of us to take those things which rob us of precious time and determine to be their master, rather than allowing them through their addictive nature to be the master of us.

I don't think I can write much more now that I'm reminded of the value of time—both yours and mine! I don't know if reading this is a waste of your time, or if there are better things you should be doing, but I'll end here and get back to work.

But I'll still write more tomorrow. Because it's nice to take time to be reminded of how I can improve.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Children, by Neil L. Andersen
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

As I write this post, you can tune in to a news station or point your browser to a news site and find reports relating to children and family planning in the US political arena. Some republican candidates are calling for contraceptives to be banned, while the democratic-led national leaders are calling for women's health services to be available to all employees (including contraception)—with the notable exception of church-employees. (I wrote about a similar topic in my first blog post)

It's an interesting time to be alive.

As my wife and I discussed last night what little we had heard of these conflicts, we agreed with something that I happened to read in Elder Andersen's talk today:

When to have a child and how many children to have are private decisions to be made between a husband and wife and the Lord. These are sacred decisions—decisions that should be made with sincere prayer and acted on with great faith.

Whichever side of this ideological divide you may find yourself, this statement from an apostle may easily be used to support your views. However, before shaping this statement into a weapon to hurl at opponents, consider Elder Andersen's later restatement:

The decision of how many children to have and when to have them is between a husband and wife and the Lord. We should not judge one another on this matter.

Strange how much of the fervor of an argument disappears when judging stops.

Okay. I need some humor to fill the void that's left now that argument is off the table. I liked the funny story Elder Andersen shared, mostly because I can imagine it happening to our family!

A young mother got on a bus with seven children. The bus driver asked, “Are these all yours, lady? Or is it a picnic?”

“They’re all mine,” she replied. “And it’s no picnic!”

It's funny because it's true!

I love my children. And I love their mother even more! You may have heard/read my praises of her in the past—if you haven't, either you don't know me, or I'm not being a good husband!—but I'm going to do it again (and again, and again):

I love my amazing wife! Each school day she single-handedly gets our four children ready for the day, rides her bike (with one child in a seat behind her and another in a trailer) with the two oldest to school, plays with the youngins, loads everyone back up to ride back to school in the afternoon, and smiles the whole time! (She'll claim that she only smiles most of the time.)

On top of all of this, she is funny, great to talk to, gives lots of hugs (and amazing kisses!), and is oh so beautiful!

The only thing I can't figure out is what she sees in me!?

If we're ever asked why we have so many children, I can honestly say, "With the world as crazy as it is now, it needs as many of the type of children we can give it as it can get!"

And by "we," I mostly mean my wife.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn, by David A. Bednar
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

What amazing technological advancements do you think this quietly-learning three-yr-old will see in his next fifteen years? In addition to looking entirely cute, he's learning! Right now he may visit for a fun way to learn his ABC's, but what will he use technology for in the future?

Consider a timeline of technology (example here). It's hard for me, as a member of the Church, to not see a correlation between the Restoration (including the necessary preparation for the Restoration) and the Industrial Revolution. As the heavens were once again opened, it seems technology propagated all over the world!

Perhaps these innovations were to aid with the spreading of the gospel.

While some may avoid technological advances like the Internet because of their inherent bad side, others have embraced them for sharing hope, love, and the gospel of Jesus Christ (here's an example—from the good side—my profile). Here's what Elder Bednar had to say about it:

It is no coincidence that FamilySearch and other tools have come forth at a time when young people are so familiar with a wide range of information and communication technologies. Your fingers have been trained to text and tweet to accelerate and advance the work of the Lord—not just to communicate quickly with your friends. The skills and aptitude evident among many young people today are a preparation to contribute to the work of salvation.

It sounds like computer literacy among young people is a preparation for family history work!

After supplementing his alphabetic instruction at and applying math and physics through fun games at, my children—and yours—may point their browser at or and unlock whole new doors of opportunity.

Perhaps even the doors of the temple. . .

. . .and the doors of eternity!

The Sustaining of Church Officers

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

The Sustaining of Church Officers, by Henry B. Eyring
First Counselor in the First Presidency

*Raising my right hand.