Sunday, February 25, 2018

It’s the Olympics!

The 23rd Winter Olympics closes today and we have been treated to some of the most exciting sporting events over the past seventeen days. I love the Olympics; both summer and winter. The events are exciting and our national pride swells when the U.S. Athletes succeed. We also get to witness how athletes respond to what many see as failure. When my children were young and we watched the events of the summer and winter Olympics together one of the most often phrases I would say when someone would not live up to the hype that the media had portrayed them to be; was: “It’s the Olympics”!

The Olympics bring a stress unlike no other sporting event. The pressure for an athlete to win the gold medal is so intense that many athletes fail to live up to the expectations of others. This past two weeks were no exception. There were many that did not win gold, and many that did; some that were not expected to. In the days leading up to the Olympics in PheongChang, South Korea we were introduced to the Athletes that were supposed to be the best in their sports and would certainly win gold for the U.S. The Washington Post’s Headline for today (Sunday, February 25, 2018) was “With 23 Medal, Team USA falls short of expectations at PyeongChang Olympics”. In the article they mentioned that the USA was projected to win anywhere from 25-59 medals so on the surface it appeared the article was saying that Team USA was a failure; far from it. Alan Ashley, the U.S. Olympic Committee’s chief of sport performance, was quoted as saying:

“I pay attention to the medals, too, but I also pay attention to the team, and we’ve got an amazing team. I feel like there were a lot of really, really close finishes. It was not as though we were in situations where you say, ‘Oh, we’re going to do this great achievement,’ and then we were 20th, 40th, 70th, whatever. Instead, we have this huge group of athletes that was this far away from being on the podium.”
“American athletes finished in either fourth, fifth or sixth place here 35 times, potential medals if the U.S. Olympian was a split-second faster or perhaps impressed a judge just a bit more. I think we can take those fourth through sixth places and help convert them to somebody’s dream of standing on the podium.” (Washington Post)

Many of these fourth, fifth, or sixth places were only hundredths of a second slower than those that were on the podium. Sometime we feel that if they did not make the podium they failed. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? They made it to the OLYMPICS while we sit at home and criticize their performances? One person in the Washington Post’s article’s comment section reminded us: “the person that came in 104th in the biathlon was better than the other 7.5 billion people on the planet”. The majority of humanity have no clue what it takes to make it to the Olympics, or what it really takes to make it to the podium. Even if they did understand they would not be willing to make the sacrifice that it takes to get there. I was a distance runner in high school (and a pretty good one) and my coach told me that I had the potential to go to the Olympics. The only problem was I was not willing to put in the hours needed to go from being a good high school athlete to develop what was needed in college let alone the Olympics. I love what Lindsey Vonn said when asked about how she felt about her performance at the 2018 Winter Olympics. She called the expectations surrounding gold medals “pretty out of whack.” And then went on to say:

“They’re not necessarily what the Olympics are all about,” she said. “The Olympics are a unifying event, one that has profound impact on the entire world, so to quantify it in how many medals you have, I think, is not appropriate and doesn’t respect the athletes and what they’ve put in to be at these Games. We are all athletes and want to win, and we do our best but sometimes it is not it is not what we want.”

Lindsey said she had given her all in her races and felt she was successful even though she did not win gold as everyone expected of her. She was there to do her best for her grandfather who had fought in the Korean War and had passed away last November. The athletes of the 2018 Winter games like many other games are there competing for different reasons and often they are there in memory of other athletes or family members. The US Men’s Four-man Bobsled Teams were there racing in memory of Steven Holcomb, one of their team members from the past two Olympics, that passed away last May.

Nathan Chan and most of the other members of the US Figure Skating Team did not live up to the hype that the media had portrayed for them. I loved it when the commentators would introduce a team member as being perfect in all their performances and had never fallen; then when they would fall and everyone would be shocked. “It’s the Olympics” I would say. Then they would come back and be spectacular once the pressure was off.

Some of the best moments were from athletes that were not expected to win but did. One of those was Ester Ledeka from the Czech Republic who had never finished better than 19th in the Women’s Super-G – she won Gold! NBC had crowned the winner already and said that the others that were yet to compete had no chance of winning so they ended their coverage of that event and went on to another race. Then there is the US Men’s Curling Team that were almost out of the running because of losses in the preliminaries that came back an won gold,, the US’s first ever. I loved the US Women’s Hockey Team that for the fourth time went into the gold medal match with four-time gold medal winners, Team Canada. The last time they beat Canada was 20 years ago in 1998 but that did not stop them from achieving their dream. Then there is Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall who won gold, the first ever for Team USA, in the cross country team sprint event.

Every Olympics has those memorable moments, sometimes it is due to less than expected performances, but most of the time it is from those moments when the athletes rise above their own abilities and expectations and become Olympic champions. This year was the first time ever for a bobsled team from Nigeria and the first time ever an athlete from Jamaica competed in the skeleton race. The women’s Nigerian bobsled team can in 20 out of 20 and the Jamaican Skeleton athlete came in last, but to see them smile at the end of the race you would have thought they had won gold. To me, every olympic athletes are champions and should be recognized as such. They are the best of the best and the sacrifice they have made to represent their country should bring them honor and respect after all it is the Olympics.

Your comments and questions are welcome.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

I Love You Because

This past week we celebrated Valentine’s Day. I am not much of a traditionalist and don’t care for all the commercialization and pressure that we feel to buy stuff that has no real lasting value. I believe that the simple things we do each day to show our love is more important. In saying this, I also know that my wife likes flowers and cards so I did give her some chocolates and a valentine’s card (she bought her own flowers) and we went out to dinner together.

Last year for valentine’s I bought my wife a frame that has “I love you because” written on it. We then can write expressions of our love to each other. It has been fun to see the message change every few days. I will write something to my wife and then a few days later it will be erased and my wife will write something to me. At first it was easy coming up with some way to express my love, but after a while it started to become more difficult to say something different. Usually something will happen in our daily interactions that I can use to say why I love her; and sometimes it has something to do with saying I’m sorry! Every time my wife writes me a new message, it reaffirms that she really does love me and I know by her reactions the same is true when I write something to her.

My wife and I have been married for almost 43 years and while we have had our struggles, we have endured and our love for each other has grown more than we could have imagined when we made our covenants that bind us together not only in this life but through all eternity. Not only did we make covenants with each other, we made covenants with God. In those covenants we promised to be loyal and faithful to each other and that no one else takes precedence over our spouse, not even our children. This means that our friends, hobbies, other family members, and even our work are secondary to our spouse. This does not mean we should ignore our employers requests to fulfill our responsibilities to them or the importance of our children. If we fail at work, then we fail in our primary responsibility to provide for our spouse and children. But we should not ignore our family needs and focus all our efforts on work. If we are an employer or supervisor, we should remember that our employees have other responsibilities than the ones we give them. We need to remember that our employees will be much more effective if their family responsibilities are being cared for.

I was not a good example of the proper priorities of putting my wife first above all others and it took many years to learn how to put her first. I also know that most couples struggle with this as well, but as long as we try to improve and repent when needed and make the necessary changes we can eventually grow and be perfected through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Many individuals when they retire when asked what they would do different if they could change anything say they would spend more time with their family.

The sanctity of marriage and family are under attack from all directions. When was the last time you watched a show on TV or gone to a movie that portrayed the family, especially the husband in a positive manner. Most of the fathers on TV are lazy and portrayed negatively or insignificant.

THE FAMILY is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.

This inspired document shows every family how we can be successful and teach our children that families can succeed in today’s environment and not follow the example portrayed in the media. President Gordon B. Hinckley speaking to the youth of the church in a fireside on September 22, 1996 spoke of the myth some have about marriage. He said:

“Marriage requires a high degree of tolerance, and some of us need to cultivate that attribute. I have enjoyed these words of Jenkins Lloyd Jones, which I clipped from the newspaper some years ago. Said he:

“There seems to be a superstition among many thousands of our young [men and women] who hold hands and smooch in the drive-ins that marriage is a cottage surrounded by perpetual hollyhocks to which a perpetually young and handsome husband comes home to a perpetually young and [beautiful] wife. When the hollyhocks wither and boredom and bills appear the divorce courts are jammed. …

“Anyone who imagines that bliss [in marriage] is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he has been robbed.

“[The fact is] most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. …

“Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed.

“The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride” (“Big Rock Candy Mountains,” Deseret News, 12 June 1973, A4). (A Conversation with Single Adults)

Successful marriages are hard, God intended it to be so, but as we endure all the smoke and dust around us and as we become more selfless and empathetic to the needs of our spouse we can all enjoy the beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. To be successful we not only are partners with our spouse but with our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Only with faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and keeping the covenants we made in the temple can we achieve our full potential that Heavenly Father knows we can become.

It is tragic that the ever increasing number of women reporting abuse through the #MeToo Movement, it is bringing to light the amount of abuse women have experienced not only from individuals in power but in their marriages. Spouse and child abuse is a gross sin. There is no excuse for it and should be stopped. There have been reports in some social media of LDS bishops that have counseled women to stay in abusive relationships. The stand of the LDS Church is that abuse is not to be tolerated. I have been a bishop of a married student ward and have been in counseling sessions with couples that are going through trials. Fortunately, I have never had a spouse that reported spouse abuse but if I had, it is clear what I was required by the church to do and that is to call the church offices and report it. While bishops try to help couples with their problems and help the members to repent and stay together, anyone in an abusive relationship should be removed from the situation and the abuse dealt with according to church policy and the local laws. There may have been bishops that mistakenly told the wife to stay in an abusive relationship, but that is not what bishops are taught.

Our marriage has endured through many delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts. We have also had our share of beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. On one occasion when my wife was experiencing the smoke and dust that was a result my selfishness, she was complaining to a friend. Her friend simply said: “why don’t you just divorce him?” Because of our temple covenants my wife said: “No!”, then her friend said: “then shut up and deal with it”. We have been dealing with “it” ever since and can say we are experiencing more beautiful vistas and less sidetracks, smoke, and dust. Our love continues to grow stronger every day and we continue to write those “I Love You Because” note to each other often.

Your comments and questions are welcome.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

A Lifetime of Preparation

On January 16th, 2018, President Russell M. Nelson was introduced as the 17th president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the weeks that have passed since that announcement I have watched as social media have both praised and ridiculed the announcement. There are some who think that having a 93 year-old person at the head of the church is not only a mistake but foolish. Those who express these feelings do not understand that this is not a just a church of men, it is the Church of Jesus Christ and he is the head of the church and guides and directs the church through His Prophets.

When the President of The Church dies, there is no voting or campaigning for the next President. There are no smoke signals announcing the new President. The Lord chooses who that person is. While there is no mystery in who the next President will be (it is always the senior Apostle), it is still the Lord that chooses who that person is. During the next General Conference in April, two new Apostles will be sustained by the Church. The Lord through revelation to his Prophets and Apostles will reveal who those two brethren will be. It is then up to the Lord who will live and who will pass away as each Apostle moves from the junior Apostle to the Senior Apostle.

Elder John A Widtsoe (1872-1952) observed: “This is a wise procedure. It places at the head of the church the Apostle who has been longest in service. He is known well to the people and trusted by them. He himself knows the procedure of church affairs. He is no novice to be trained for the position.”

In his address to the members of the Church President Nelson spoke of how this process prepares one for the day when he is the Senior Apostle and President of the Lord’s Church. He said:

“Each day of an Apostle’s service is day of learning and preparing for more responsibility in the future. It takes decades of service for an Apostle to move from the junior chair to the senior chair in the circle. During that time he gains first-hand experience in each facet of the work of the church. He also becomes well acquainted with the peoples of the earth, including their histories, cultures, languages as his assignments take him repeatedly across the globe.

“This process of succession in the leadership of the church is unique. I know of nothing else like it. That should not surprise us because this is the Lord’s Church. He does not work after the manner of men. I have served in the Quorum of the Twelve under five previous presidents of the Church. I have watched each President receive revelation and respond to that revelation. The Lord always has and always will instruct and inspire his prophets. The Lord is at the helm. We who have been ordained to bear witness of His holy name throughout the world will continue to seek to know his will and follow it.” (See Mormon Newsroom)

Those who serve in the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles travel all over the earth and visit with members and non-members, they visit with leaders of nations, and heads of other Churches. They know more about the needs of Heavenly Father’s children than anyone and through revelation from the Lord they are directed in knowing what needs to be accomplished to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all the world.

There are many in the social media that have stated that maybe now will be the time for the church to make changes that they would like to see. Again they are mistaken. It is not the President of the Church that decides if changes are to be made; it is the Lord Jesus Christ. While programs and policies can change, church doctrine does not and those who want to force change will be disappointed.

President Nelson express his love for the faithful members of the church and asked them to stay on the covenant path and close to the temple. To those that have strayed from the covenant path President Nelson invited them to come back. He said: “Whatever your concerns, whatever your challenges, there is a place for you in this the Lord’s Church. You and generations yet unborn will be bless as you return to the covenant path”.

President Nelson concluded is address to the church by saying “I declare my devotion to God our Eternal Father and His Son Jesus Christ. I know them and love them and pledge to serve them and you with every remaining breath of my life”.

I add my witness and testimony that President Russell M. Nelson is the Lord’s Prophet here on the earth today. He is not only the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but he is the Lord’s Prophet to the world. As we listen and give heed to his teachings and counsel we will be blessed and prosper. This has always been the Lord’s way for Heavenly Father’s children and always will be.

Your questions and comments are welcome.