Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Back to the Future - Each Choice

Had a thought while watching the "Back to the future" series with Michael J Fox.

Our choices have profound effects that alter the course of events.  Granted this movie is hollywood, but it does illustrate something that is true.  Sometimes we just sort of go with the stream or flow of the "collective unconscious" just going with the presumed norms of behavior and choices. But we all have the capacity to make different choices. When "Marty" in Back to the Future would change just one thing, it would have a ripple effect on others who then made different decisions which often had profound effects on the future. 

Making good decisions is timeless. It's been said that the Angels in heaven rejoice over souls who choose what matters most.

Alma in the book of mormon talks about great things coming to pass from small and simple means. I think one choice, a decision to do the right thing can bring about great change in the future. Now is the best time to choose "whom ye will serve". Now is the time to seek out the Holy Spirit's promptings and choose to follow.

It will affect the future.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Training and Testing

There is a scene in the first Men In Black when Will Smith is in the headquarters building along with all the military guys going through a series of tests. They are determining who is going to be K's replacement on the MIB team. There's the written test (where he screatches the noisy table across the room to use as a desk). The shooting test, where they shoot at the cardboard aliens while a strobe light flashes, when Will decides to shoot the cutout of the girl with quantum physics books. And then the "eye" exam. Right after the shooting scene Zed walks in and in a big loud voice says "Congratulations! You're everything we've come to expect from years of government training". With a smile that reveals he is being a tiny bit sarcastic. Their training was good, but there was something that their training could not give them.

Some thought they were being tested for one thing when in fact something else was being tested for. Their years of government training produced expected results but wasn't the real test in this situation. Will Smith saw the situation differently and responded differently. He in essence was the only one who passed the test. The take away from this seems to me to be that the message you receive will depend on what you see. And what message you get will determine how you respond. And how you respond, and what choices you make determines so much of life. So it'd be good to see correctly. And not just see through only the eyes of one form of training.

I think it's interesting to view many areas of life as a series of tests. We test products before we buy them, we "test the waters" when we are in a new situation. We test students to see their progress, and life seems to test us with all sorts of diverse challenges. Products, food, people are put through tests to ensure their character and quality.

I had an analysis of argument class during college, also had a communications and law class. In both classes the professor lamented that the longer an issues stays in court the less the truth of the issue mattered. The test changed from deciding the truth truth to something else entirely. It became more about the presentation, the story, the argument, the money that could buy the most educated and experienced professionals.

The thought that prompted this post was about training and testing. As it was for the folks being screened for the Men In Black position their years of training produced expected results. But it wasn't everything. As in the courtroom, the truth matters less the more certain kinds of training are employed.

The Book of Mormon teaches "By the power of the holy ghost ye may know the truth of all things". In my view Moroni gives us a key to training and testing, as well as succeeding. We can know the truth of all things. Gods ways really are good. I've tried in what ways I can and have found this to be true.

Although not popular training humility is probably the most liberating and mind opening. At least that has been on my mind and I see truth to it.

Friday, April 23, 2010

P182 cleared to land at Taylor's house permanently.

This is the Piaggio Avanti

ATC advises alternate landing at Taylor's house.

Policy customer service and robots

"To speak to a human, press one "

I wish automated phone systems had that option.  It's so nice to talk to a human sometimes.

I was at school yesterday, had 10 minutes before class started and wanted to print off the instructors notes before class. I got to the student services building walked towards the rows and rows of empty of computers and was stopped by the girl at the desk who wanted me to check in. So I did. She asked for my ID so I showed her my drivers license. She said she needed my School ID card. I said I didn't have it on me but knew my student ID number and password. I was then told I couldn't use the computers. I said I would be there for less than a minute and they were welcome to verify I was a active student on their student look up function on their computer. She said it was policy that I was not allowed to use a computer unless I had my little plastic card. It wasn't about my identity, nor my status as a student, or the fact that I had just paid 4,000$ in out of state tuition, or the rows and rows of unused computer equipment collecting dust. It was the piece of plastic and the policy. No customer service is needed when policy directs everything.

Irritating but whatever.  Then I was at my favorite pizza place, slow day, two employees sitting around doing nothing. I ordered a half and half pizza, half BBQ and half Hawaiian. I was told they couldn't do that. I've never had a half and half pizza request denied, and I assumed it was because of overlapping sauces so I told them it was fine if in the middle the sauce overlapped.  I've worked at a pizza place before and this request is as common as the sun coming up. Further, I've been to this exact location before and ordered the same thing. I was reminded almost before I finished my sentence that they couldn't do that. I was told it was policy and basically it was not up for negotiation. So I just said I'd take an all BBQ pizza then. I get to the car and it's half Hawaiian half BBQ but with all BBQ sauce. haha, more on this in the comment section.

This didn't happen the same day, but it's another example of the point I'm making.  I was headed to the temple with a friend to do some ordinance work. It was 6:30am July 1st. My friends temple recommend had expired 6.5 hours previously on the last day of June. He was told he could not enter inside. A policy was given as the reason.  Human assessment of the situation never was considered, or even entertained.  The policy dictated everything much in the same inhuman way a computer follows computer code. Worthiness is what determines someone going to the temple, but in this case it had nothing to do with it.

Computers can follow policy. Humans however have the added God given gifts of intellect and judgment and discernment.  I get the need for policy, but what I don't get is when policy is followed as if it were God.  My friend and I parted ways that day at the temple, he was little disappointed but amused at it all. What was important to us was not what was important to those following policy.  We cared about temple, and it's purpose, and less about the hour of the day or day of the month printed on a piece of paper. No harm was done.

It's unfortunate in my view anytime what matters is replaced by what doesn't. If there is an unusual situation, like above, it's my view a person should make an assessment and then make an informed decision. Otherwise we've become servants of our own policies.

I understand the need for policy. In my training with air traffic control should policy be ignored and procedures made irrelevant the sky would be a disaster. They are helpful, but only to a point. I think life becomes robotic, and lifeless and very unfortunate when policy replaces simple human to human communication and service. When policy replaces decision power, a robot is what you end up with.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Who wants anything impure? But wait...

These days a lot of people are really interested in the cleanliness of what we consume. We want pure air to breathe, we want pure drinking water, we want clean cities, we want clean food, we don’t like impurities. People sanitize their hands before meals to get rid of impurities.  Cleanliness is important.

Wouldn't it be smart to take the same care with the spiritual food we intake? Our spiritual water. Do we even bother to notice? It's easier to just accept whatever the norm is, just accept what's taught and delivered to you.  This occurs when trust is given to others, over the Spirit.  It's even easier if everyone else is doing it, and if years of tradition are behind it. Even easier if the person teaching has position, or a lot of letters after their name. It's more difficult to think about it, ask questions, pray about it, and find out the truth for ourselves.

The Book of Mormon speaks of pollutions, impurities, and degraded religious occurrences in our last days.  Yet we sometimes are more focused on drinking clean water while we choke down spiritual impurities without a second thought.

How important personal revelation is.  It requires effort, but it's fun, not to mention free. (Isaiah 55:1) "every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price."

On a related note, this is a quote by Brigham Young I like a lot:

“‘I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are being led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give their leaders if they know for themselves by the revelations of Jesus Christ that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know by the whisperings of the Spirit of God to themselves whether their leaders are walking in the way the Lord dictates or not. This has been my exhortation continually"

What good advice.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010


If everyone hasn't heard this study it's very interesting.

Two people who didn't know each other (this was done with participants across gender, race, and culture) were set side by side in front of an evaluator. Person 1 was offered an amount of money, (the studies results were consistent regardless of the amount) and then told they had to divide it up however they wanted between him or herself and person number 2. Person 1 could keep it all, or give it all, or anywhere in between. Person 2 then had two choices. Accept the deal. Or Both get nothing.

So the study goes on, some pairs with 100 dollars, other pairs with larger amounts. All participants were adult age, varying with gender and race. The study showed some interesting results. When person 1 would divide up the money 50/50 or in favor of person 2, (wonder how often that happened), person 2 would accept 100 percent of the time. This continued with 60/40. From that point on if the dividing up became more one sided towards person 1, for example 80/20 then person 2 increasingly would decide that neither of them would get anything because it wasn't fair. Basically saying someone was greedy so no one gets anything.

When the dividing up was more than about 70/30 person 2 overwhelmingly would choose for them both to walk away empty handed.

Now lets think about this. These are two people who have never seen each other and probably will never see each other again. THIS IS FREE MONEY!! Person 2 can choose to accept at least some amount of money or walk away with 0$. Lets think..... 20$ or 0$? Yet choosing to get NOTHING to "prove" that a line of fairness was crossed. Person 2 would be so upset at person 1's greediness that he or she would choose to prevent them both from getting anything. Person 2 due to some very curious thought process and emotion, wanting to "show that greedy other person a lesson" would elect 0$. The results went up above 95% when the division of money went above 90/10.

What an insight into human behavior. Just imagine the results with people who know each other and maybe harbour a tiny bit of resentment towards them.

The Gospel of Christ teaches there is joy in giving. I would say almost everyone would agree. But often there is this human tendency to not only not give....but sabotage everyone if I don't GET enough. I watched Judge Judy the other day on TV... this concept can get ugly in real life.

I would guess had person 1 chosen to give person 2 the better deal a friendship may have begun after they left the room. Anyone agree?

In all this I'm not saying to choose to come out on the loosing end of exchanges in life. I don't think that is the principle in this. I think when occasion permits, maybe additionally when resources permit, to show unselfishness towards our fellow man and see what happens.

Connecting this to an underlying gospel principle, paying tithing I think can become totally empty dull and routine. I think the Lord intended to make us happier and more elevated by doing so, not make us poorer or feel lacking. And even if suddenly the church said for one year no one had to pay tithing, I wonder who and what part of the practice of consecrating a portion of our income to those in need would continue? The answer would say a lot about the character of the previous full tithe payers. Interesting thought. I guess it only really matters what I would do. Others can do as they choose.

I think it's fun to find the underlying principle in things. Then try and live it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Would we rather be right? Or find an answer?

One of my favorite mentors posed this question. "Would you rather be right, or would you rather find an answer/solution?". This question was in the context of story he told about a study done with a group of stock investors. Certain investors as part of the study were given a large amount of money to trade with. Some were very educated and respected investors. During the study as well as towards the end some key decisions needed to be made.  Stock prices were all over the board, and critical decisions has to be made.  There were some who decided to ride it out, but the prices continued to decrease. Some in this group were unwilling to change having gone so far.  They decided to just stick with it because they didn't want to admit en error and loose their image. They insisted on being right and that somehow the stock prices would eventually rebound and confirm how right they were. They ended up loosing everything. But in their mind they were "right" and it was the system that didn't function properly. On the other hand there were other participants who were willing to learn, and make mistakes, and then keep learning, being willing to accept a poor choice or decision.  They ended up coming out not only ahead but overall more satisfied. Some were more interested in being right, in maintaining their image than having success.

Sometimes being "right" about how "wrong" others are is the very thing that stops you from finding a solution.  Needing to be right can be terribly blinding.

What really is possible anyway?

A few years ago I took a year long class about emotional intelligence. The topic fascinated me and I saw people with gifts I didn't really know existed. There was also a level of inner peace I deeply wanted but recognized I had not yet found. At first I was skeptical of the class, it looked foreign, somewhat weird and I was slightly afraid/apprehensive. Such is the case with things we don't understand. But once I understood what it was and how it worked the fear left and it was replaced by excitement at the range of new possibilities that opened up. And what a range it was. Some of the topics however continued to be somewhat weird, that was my indication that certain topics or extremes were not helpful and so I continued with what did provide me with light and understanding and overall increased understanding of life myself and others.

One of the big understandings of everyone in the class was just what was possible on an inner level. Much of what I learned I gained from participating with my fellow classmates. Each person had their unique story.  Some had experienced terrible trauma in their lives.  I watched my self and others talk about and express varying levels of difficult challenges, pain from the past, scars, reoccurring themes of life, inner questions, challenges, soft spots, points of personal embarrassment, hurt, anger, burden, sorrow. Those things everyone knows are part of life.

Each of us realized that there is more we could do about them than any of us had previously thought.  No one need live with it without hope. Things can be healed. Treasures can be found. Lessons are given to us but we sometimes don't get the complete benefit because we don't know it's possible or available. Without belief in the possibility of increased understanding, or peace, or healing the rest of the path doesn't exist.

So the purpose of this post is a voice to the part of all of us that (perhaps often, perhaps just sometimes) gives up, concludes and says within us "this will never change" "there is nothing else I can do about it" "it's not worth it, I've tried everything and it doesn't work" etc etc etc. "I just have to live with it" "time and suppressing feelings will eventually make you forget"  That stuff may or may not be true.  There is always hope, but we must believe, and be willing to let it work within us.

“You need never be discouraged or afraid. The way through difficulties has always been prepared for you, and you will find it if you exercise faith.”
Henry B. Eyring

It may require a new level of understanding, a whole new thought process, new beliefs, more commandment keeping, more prayer, more spiritual gifts but there the way is prepared.  You will find it if you exercise faith. Mark 9: 23 "Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Who are we to limit God?

In church last Sunday it was fast and testimony meeting. One member of the ward stood up and gave a sincere testimony. I enjoyed it. Towards the end he began talking about how the General Authorities/Quorum of the 12 are privileged to see the face of God but that such things were not possible for anyone else.

I'm not sure his reasoning for this claim but he spoke as if everyone he spoke with would agree and share that assumption.

I have a very different view.  I can find no scriptural support for the assumption this particular speaker presented.  By contrast I can cite easily, multiple scriptures that say the opposite.  As latter day saints I think it is our privilege to come to the Lord, learn of Him, and come to know God. I believe only the President of the church is called to declare new doctrine and receive revelation for the church. The Lord has organized the institution that way. The President speaks for God. But I believe all are invited to speak with God.  Who can argue that?

These scriptures, in modern revelation help me draw such conclusions.

D&C 93: 1. Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am;

D&C 88: 3. Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John.

And pretty much all of third Nephi starting in chapter 11 when Christ personally ministers to many people with no particular religious calling.  To agree with this speakers belief that only General Authorities can see or experience God directly, also requires that you ignore Christ's documented ministry in the scriptures.  He ministered to, and asks "all" to come unto Him.

None of those scriptures to me suggest we must rely on or look to other peoples experiences with God to give us confidence and assurance. In fact to me they suggest we should enjoy our own, supporting those called to lead the church by the simple things God asks of us.  To limit God to only speaking with them, and then looking to them as our intermediary is idolatry.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Change and Choices

I think all lasting change, is individual. We can never change others, nor are we accountable for others use of agency. We're judged according to our own heart and desires, and then in turn asked not to judge others.

While doing some math questions for weight and balance of an airplane during on of my classes I noticed something simple. When you change one side of an equation then the other side, by definition changes. And since we are always a component of the equation of life, we have a key in how to effect positive change. If we insist others change, it's not likely to work. That equation usually yields frustration and anger. But if we, alter our own view, or gain understanding, or communicate more honestly, or learn more truth, look further, heal our own past, adapt, love and grow, others almost have to adapt because the initial components in the equation are changing. We don't often know other peoples inner situations, or really why they do what they do, but I think we can still respect them and be content to show charity regardless of the behavior of those around us. Because who of us knows what "really" is going on in their life?

A quick chemistry example, heliuim and oxygen don't maker water. But a slight change of energy and helium's name changes to hydrogen. That makes a whole new substance when mixed with other elements. If helium stubbornly insists on not moving or sharing it's protons or electrons it will never bond with other elements to form anything new. It's interactions are locked in place. Because that is the choice helium makes. It is likely to live out it's existence still repelling the other elements for not changing. (D&C 93:30) All intelligence is free in the sphere in which God placed it to act for it's self. Even elements make choices. Some are predictable, some are not. Some are destructive, some are not.

Each piece of intelligence is free to choose, free to change, and therefore in a position to make a difference in the equation. What others choose, is not our choice.

If one person changes through repentance, if one soul humbly comes to the Lord, it yields joy in heaven, and unspeakable peace. The equation is there, and the outcome is joy! Dependent on no one else but you.  So much of our life's equation is directly affected by our choices.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Fuentes and the Gospel

A Spiritual And Gospel Thought about our Culture.

Letty (the mom of the family I'm staying with while in California) asked me to give an FHE lesson last week. The topic was the power of prayer. The difference in the Latin culture from what I've seen living here twice and living in paraguay for 2 years is big. They are much quicker to believe. They are more like the "good spots of ground" (quoted in Jacob 5) in which seeds of the Gospel grow better than hard ground of the other modern cultures. Certain cultures tend to be more open to spiritual experiences than others. The majority of my church experiences in Utah are less this way. It's provided good contrast. The Latin culture generally appears more willing, they feel more, and are far more prone to talk about God or prayer or things of that nature than the culture I've spent more of my time in.  Other places I've been people appear numb, completely absorbed in "the thick of thin things" (Stephen Covey), disinterested, bored, or just going through religious motions set in place by traditions.

The "spots of ground" in Jacob 5 I think have more to do with demographics than geographic locations.