Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Twelve years ago...lessons in compassion

Twelve years and about twelve days ago, our family was blessed with the arrival of a baby boy. However, there were problems. Joseph was born with a chromosomal disorder known as Trisomy 13 (you can read about the details of this disorder here ) He was beautiful baby, in spite of the obvious physical deformities, but we knew within hours of his birth that he wouldn't be with our family very long. I'm not going to go into a lot of details in this post about our experiences-if you'd like you can read about it on my wife's blog here.

And twelve years ago today, Joseph was called home. I can still remember very clearly what it was like holding my baby boy as he stopped breathing, listening as his heart stopped, and knowing that he had quietly passed away in my arms. It was sad, of course. And it was hard to watch. But I also knew that it was his time, and that his suffering was over. And more importantly, I had faith in the reality of the resurrection, and that we would see him again. But there were a couple of things that happened during this whole experience that I wanted to share today that really taught me what it means to show compassion to be compassionate.

First of all, as soon as we knew that Joseph's condition was terminal, we starting working with the StarShine Hospice & Palliative Care organization from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital. (you can read more about them here.)  Both the professional staff and the volunteers were amazing. Compassion is defined as "a sympathetic consciousness of others' distress along with a desire to alleviate it", and these hospice workers/volunteers were a great example of what it means to show compassion. They played with our older children. They provided information (which was more valuable than you may think). They listened to our concerns. They trained us how to take care of Joseph. I can't imagine what it would be like to be in their shoes, and having to deal with dying children and their families over and over and over and over again. But they did and they do and I appreciated them more than they probably knew. They were the ones that we called first after Joseph passed away, they took care of calling the funeral home and making all the necessary arrangements, and they stayed with us until they knew we were taken care of. Yes, I know it was part of their job, but they treated us like we were their only concern and that made all the difference. And I think one of the things I learned from this was that compassion and service are the most meaningful when we focus on the individual. It doesn't matter how many others we may be responsible for (and this applies to parents, teachers, bishops, home/visiting teachers, etc.), we have to take the time to minister to the individual. It doesn't work any other way.

The second example that I wanted to share happened when the two gentlemen from the funeral home showed up to take Joseph away. It was probably around 2:00am or so when they pulled up in front of our small townhouse apartment in their hearse. They spoke with us for a little while, answered our questions, and then walked out with us as they prepared to take Joseph's body away. Tabitha was holding him as we walked towards the vehicle. One of them opened the back door, and I remember seeing a small box-just the right size for an infant-sized body-sitting there in the back. As the other gentleman gently took Joseph from my wife, he looked at the two of us, then at the back of the car, and then turned to his partner and said "I'll just carry him up front with us." Who knows, they probably just drove around the corner and out of sight and then placed the body in the back where it was supposed to be transported, but at that moment, that one small act of compassion made a lasting impression on us. How grateful we were to see them treat our child like he was one of their own, and not just something to dispose of in the back of their vehicle. And I'll be forever thankful for that.

Small and seemingly insignificant actions on our part can have long-lasting effects on the lives of others. Hopefully we can all take a little more time from our busy lives and hectic schedules to look for, recognize, and act on opportunities to be compassionate.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Music Lesson

My wife and I are participating in a volunteer orchestra/choir that will be performing "The Many Moods of Christmas" in December. I'm playing the trumpet and my wife is playing the viola. We had our first listen through/rehearsal this morning, and it went about as well as one would expect for the first time as a group. Some parts went well, some not so well. It's one of those pieces that is going to take a LOT of work, but the end result in a little over four months will hopefully be worth it.

As we were driving home, I mentioned that it was interesting playing the third trumpet part, when most of my experience through grade school and high school was as a first trumpet. The first trumpet is usually the one with the melody, solos, higher notes, etc. The one that you initially hear when you're listening to a band or orchestra. The one that seems to get all the glory and attention. The third trumpet part initially seems to be the one that isn't as important, as it has the lower parts, hardly ever gets a solo, only plays the melody if it's in unison with the first and second trumpets, and you'll only hear it if you really are trying to. So you might think I'd be insulted to be given the third trumpet part, as if I was being told I wasn't good enough for the other parts. And I have to admit, that probably would have been my first reaction when I was younger. I may have even been tempted to quit, with the excuse that if I couldn't be the "star" then I didn't want to participate at all. But as I've gotten older and hopefully a little wiser, I realize that in music, the end result is always greater than the sum of its parts. You may not be able to quickly identify the third trumpet in the midst of the entire choir and orchestra, but it is absolutely critical to the overall vision of the composer and the beauty of the music. As is every other instrument and voice. The full potential of the composition can only met if everyone does their part.

And that's one of the reasons I really love music. You can take brass and strings and woodwinds and percussion and voices and put them all together and create beauty out of potential chaos. One of my favorite movies is the edited-for-TV version of "Amadeus". There is one scene in particular that illustrates this point. Mozart is discussing an idea for a new opera, and says this:
Sire, only opera can do this. In a play if more than one person speaks at the same time, it's just noise, no one can understand a word. But with opera, with music... with music you can have twenty individuals all talking at the same time, and it's not noise, it's a perfect harmony!
We see the same thing in our everyday lives. Especially in our families and our church. Our Heavenly Father is the composer of the universe. He has placed each of us in our own circumstances and expects us to practice and grow and learn and develop and to fill the measure of our creation. The 20 or 20,000 or 20 billion of us can all play or sing at the same time and our Lord creates a perfect harmony out of chaos and noise. However, we may often think our part to play is small and/or insignificant, and that in the grand scheme of things it doesn't count for much. We may think that no one would notice if we don't play our part. We may think that our responsibilities in our homes or church aren't very important when we compare ourselves to others. We may get frustrated sometimes as it seems that we practice and practice and practice and keep making mistakes and falling short of the perfection that is demanded of us.


We are all important in the divine composition. Our part is significant. The responsibilities that we are given are important. We will always fall short of perfection in this life, but we have been promised that as we have faith in Christ, repent, keep the commandments and endure to the end that our weaknesses will be made strong and our imperfections will be made perfect in Christ. And I think that when we pass on from this life we'll be given the chance to look back and we'll be able to see and hear how our part in this life sounded, and we'll be amazed at the grandeur of it all.

Additional reading suggestions:

Four Titles-President Dieter F. Uchtdorf April 2013

Concern for the One-Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin April 2008

1 Corinthians 12

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

(Not So) Happy Pioneer Day

Today is an important day in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On July 24, 1847, Brigham Young (who was the acting president of the church at that time) proclaimed that the Salt Lake Valley was the place that the Mormon pioneers would settle after being driven from Missouri and Illinois.

I have a confession to make though. I always hated Pioneer Day. (I'll pause while all my Mormon friends and family from out west collectively gasp). And I felt guilty for hating it. After all, wasn't this a great occasion to be commemorating? And shouldn't I, as a nearly-life-long member of the church, join in the celebrations with joy (and a little sorrow-remembering the sacrifices of the early pioneers)? But let me give you a little background to help explain why I felt this way (and you'll notice that I'm using the past tense)-and why I don't hate it now (at least not as much).

I was born in Pennsylvania. My parents joined the church in Iowa when I was four years old, and I grew up in central Illinois. My experience with church history had always been from the early days of the church. I lived just a few hours away from Nauvoo and Carthage and visited many times. I had seen the sacred grove, the Kirtland temple, the Susquehanna river. I had testimony creating and testimony strengthening experiences visiting these sacred sites, and I felt a connection to those early saints. But every July 24th-ish we'd sing hymns in church such as these:
And I couldn't help thinking to myself, "We have no mountains here. We barely have hills. Why are we singing hymns about mountains...that's just dumb." 

Then I graduated from high school and went to BYU (where you'd think I'd gain a greater appreciation for our western pioneer heritage), but my animosity just grew. It seemed to me that all my Utah/Idaho/Arizona friends had the impression that the church was founded in 1847 by Brigham Young, and that everything that had happened in the previous 27 years wasn't all that important.

So what changed? I think my attitude started to change while we were living in southeastern Ohio. We lived in Ohio but went to church in West Virginia. And we noticed that there was somewhat of a lack of unity in our ward (congregation) due mainly to the boundaries. It seemed like the Ohio people didn't like the West Virginians, and the West Virginians were split depending on which part of the town they lived in (there were two main high schools, and that rivalry carried over into the members of the ward). It wasn't anything that was malicious, but it just wasn't they way it could or should have been. I started to realize how damaging that kind of us vs. them attitude could be.

And I realized that I needed to fix my attitude. I was able to keep my appreciation for the "Eastern" pioneers of the church and add to it an appreciation for the "Western" pioneers, and to apply the lessons from both. And one of those lessons was beautifully taught by President Monson in the July 2013 Ensign magazine (Link Here):
The passage of time dims our memories and diminishes our appreciation for those who walked the path of pain, leaving behind a tear-marked trail of nameless graves. But what of today’s challenges? Are there no rocky roads to travel, no rugged mountains to climb, no chasms to cross, no trails to blaze, no rivers to ford? Or is there a very present need for that pioneer spirit to guide us away from the dangers that threaten to engulf us and to lead us to a Zion of safety?
In the decades since the end of World War II, standards of morality have lowered again and again. Crime spirals upward; decency careens downward. Many are on a giant roller coaster of disaster, seeking the thrills of the moment while sacrificing the joys of eternity. Thus we forfeit peace.
We forget how the Greeks and Romans prevailed magnificently in a barbaric world and how that triumph ended—how a slackness and softness finally overcame them to their ruin. In the end, more than they wanted freedom, they wanted security and a comfortable life; and they lost all—comfort and security and freedom.
Do not yield to Satan’s enticements; rather, stand firm for truth. The unsatisfied yearnings of the soul will not be met by a never-ending quest for joy amidst the thrills of sensation and vice. Vice never leads to virtue. Hate never promotes love. Cowardice never gives courage. Doubt never inspires faith.
Some find it difficult to withstand the mocking and unsavory remarks of foolish ones who ridicule chastity, honesty, and obedience to God’s commands. But the world has ever belittled adherence to principle. When Noah was instructed to build an ark, the foolish populace looked at the cloudless sky and then scoffed and jeered—until the rain came.
Must we learn such costly lessons over and over again? Times change, but truth persists. When we fail to profit from the experiences of the past, we are doomed to repeat them with all their heartache, suffering, and anguish. Haven’t we the wisdom to obey Him who knows the beginning from the end—our Lord, who designed the plan of salvation—rather than that serpent, who despised its beauty?
A dictionary defines a pioneer as “one who goes before to prepare or open up the way for others to follow.”Can we somehow muster the courage and steadfastness of purpose that characterized the pioneers of a former generation? Can you and I, in actual fact, be pioneers?
I know we can be. Oh, how the world needs pioneers today!
So, with a repentant attitude, Happy Pioneer Day!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Quality of Mercy is not Strain'd....

Right now it's Saturday morning, and as I'm browsing news sites I see headlines such as these:

So I decided to do a google search for "Justice for Trayvon", and I see these links:

There's even a facebook page set up:

What exactly is justice? Here's one definition:
Justice (noun): the administering of deserved punishment or reward.
So, depending on your opinion about the events of that tragic day, it would seem that Trayvon Martin supporters are fully justified in seeking for "justice" or making sure that George Zimmerman gets his "deserved punishment".

But then I remembered this speech from Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice"

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant there.

Let me repeat this line, because it's worth repeating:
Though justice be thy plea, consider this, that, in the course of justice, none of us should see salvation: we do pray for mercy; and that same prayer doth teach us all to render the deeds of mercy
Or, as we read in the Bible:
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy (Matthew 5:7)
The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh. (Proverbs 11:17)
Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. (Luke 6:36)
For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. (James 2:13)
What is mercy, and why is it so important? Here's one definition:
Mercy (noun): compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one's power; compassion, pity, or benevolence:
Quoting again from "The Merchant of Venice":
But an attribute of God himself; and earthly power doth then show likest God's when mercy seasons justice
I personally think that I'd rather have mercy extended to me when the time comes to give an accounting of my life than have my Savior demanding that I face justice. And it seems pretty clear to me that in order to qualify for that blessing, I need to be merciful to others. When we demand justice, we deny the salvation that only mercy can bring. And by extending mercy to others, we have one of those rare opportunities in this life to really be like God.

Now don't get me wrong-I am by no means advocating that we completely do away with laws, consequences, courts, judges, juries, etc. But there will be times when, due to our imperfections as human beings, that the innocent will be punished and the guilty will go free. But let us all be slower to demand justice and quicker to extend mercy, and I think we'll be alright.

And for more on mercy, please read/watch the following:

"My Specialty Is Mercy" -Marion D. Hanks

"The Merciful Obtain Mercy"-Dieter F. Uchtdorf

"Blessed Are the Merciful"-Gordon B. Hinckley

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Random thoughts (just for fun)...

Keeping it simple this post-just some random thoughts and things I've learned over the years...

  1. The answer is supposedly 42. Still looking for the question
  2. The number one reason I'm glad I'm a guy? Pregnancy/childbirth (as in I don't have to experience either directly)
  3. The number two reason I'm glad I'm a guy? I can sleep through my alarm and wake up 25 minutes before I'm supposed to be at work and still get there on time (and it takes 20 minutes to drive). And that's with taking a shower.
  4. Your first child is hard-you have no idea what you're doing. Your second child is even more difficult as you're trying to divide yourself equally between the two. Your third child is just chaos, and after that it doesn't make that much difference. Or, in other words, once you and your wife are outnumbered by your kids, you've lost. You might as well give up and just enjoy the ride.
  5. If you wait until it is convenient or if you can afford it to have kids, you never will. So go ahead.
  6. Being a parent is gross. I could never have imagined the quantity, quality, frequency, and sources of bodily fluids that I would experience as a parent. 
  7. Being a parent is awesome. Not much beats coming home from work and hearing the kids scream "Dad's home!". That's just cool.
  8. No matter how poor we may be, if we have ice cream we feel rich.
  9. Exciting milestones as a parent: 
    1. Child smiles
    2. Child crawls
    3. Child walks
    4. Child talks
    5. You wish your child would just sit down and be quiet
    6. Your child is old enough to babysit his/her siblings and you and your spouse start dating again
    7. Your child is old enough to become the family chauffeur
    8. Your child leaves home
    9. (and from Bill Cosby) Your child disproves evolution as humans are the only species that allow their children to come back home
    10. You retire to an RV and spend the rest of your life mooching off of your kids
  10. My favorite quote: "He who takes offense where no offense is meant is a fool. He who takes offense where offense is meant is a greater fool.
  11. With apologies to Ben Franklin, necessity is not the mother of invention. Laziness is the mother of invention. 
  12. I was in 5th grade when I decided to learn to play the trumpet. My main reason was because we read in the scriptures that angels will be playing trumpets when Christ returns. No mention of strings or woodwinds.
  13. Going by one's middle name is both a blessing and a curse. The best blessing is when telemarketers or bill collectors call the house and ask for me by my first name. I tell them there's nobody here by that name. 
  14. Boys are easier to raise than girls. But girls have cuter clothes.
  15. I like being involved with the Boy Scouts. I love being involved with Cub Scouts. The main reason being that if I act dumb, the cub scouts think I'm cool. The boys scouts just think I'm dumb.
  16. The first mountains I saw up close were the Austrian Alps. Kinda ruined all the other ones for me. Although nothing beats the Appalachians in the fall. 
  17. Bacon does make everything better, but just plain bacon is pretty darn good too. 
  18. Speaking of bacon, one of the more over-looked blessings of Christ fulfilling the Mosaic law is the fact that we can now eat pork. I need to remember to include that in my prayers occasionally.
  19. I'm a cynical optimist-I hope for the best, but I don't expect it.
  20. When my wife and I first decided to have children, we told the Lord that we would take as many as He sent us as long as we could take care of them. In hindsight, I should have clarified that to mean take care of them well--as in vacations to Hawaii every year kind of well--but we have been very blessed.
  21. Phlebotomist has to be the coolest word in the English language.
  22. "Some Kind of Wonderful" has one of the best movie endings ever. Maybe the best.
  23. Han Solo shot first
  24. Star Wars > Star Trek
  25. I love road trips. We have a beautiful country, and the only way to really see it is by driving.
  26. I used to think 40 was old. Not so much now.
  27. Blueberry wafflecone ice cream-I found it once and it was amazing. Also had a ruby red grapefruit sherbet that was pretty good too.
  28. The animated version of "The Hobbit" is an abomination.
  29. So is Disney's "The Black Cauldron"
  30. And don't even get me started on "The Seeker" (I never saw it, but "The Dark is Rising"  is one of my all time favorite book series and this movie made a mockery of everything good about it.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Thy will not mine...

I graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in economics. I also had a wife and two kids by then, so it didn't make sense financially to try to continue on for an advanced degree, so after graduating I took a job with Walmart as an assistant manager. After a few years of working most holidays, Sundays, and never seeing the kids (I would often leave for work before they got up and return home after they were in bed), I decided maybe retail management wasn't the best option for me and decided to look for another job. I was able to get a job with a company that was a Walmart supplier (they distributed movies, music, and books), so I was still able to put that experience to good use. But as I watched technology change I realized that maybe being tied to music and movies wasn't a good long term fit for me and I decided to again look for another job.

So I did what would make sense for someone who had over 10 years of experience with Walmart; I started looking for and applying for jobs in the Bentonville, Arkansas area (for those who may not know, this is where Walmart is based, and just about every Walmart supplier has an office there).

I sent out resumés

I looked at job websites

I applied online for jobs

I looked at real estate listings

I sent out more resumés

I looked at more jobs online

I applied for more jobs online

I had interviews

I networked


It was depressing...I was doing everything right, looking in the right place (given my background), talking to the right people, and doing it for the right reasons. Or so I thought...

As I was looking at one of the job websites, I came across a listing for a job with Russell Stovers in Kansas City, MO. I looked at the job description, and it somewhat fit what I was looking for, but not exactly. But I decided (mostly on a whim) to go ahead and submit my resumé. I didn't include a cover letter or anything that a serious applicant would do, and just left it at that and went on looking for jobs in northwest Arkansas.

A couple weeks later I get a call from my wife saying that someone from Russell Stovers had called. I vaguely remembered applying for a job with them, so I called back. They let me know that they were interested in setting up an initial interview, and over the course of about three weeks I had two phone interviews, they flew me in for an in-person interview, and then offered me a job. I accepted, and we started making plans to move from Amarillo, Texas to Kansas City, Missouri.

The day I called one of the local bishops to let him know that our family was planning on moving into the area, he called me back later that day and let me know that he had just returned from the ground-breaking ceremony for the new Kansas City Temple. It was then that I (and our family) started seeing some of the blessings that would be heading our way. We were able to watch our temple being build from nearly the beginning, my oldest three children were able to participate in the open house and cultural celebration, we are 20 minutes from both Liberty Jail and the Independence MO visitor center, and within 45 minutes of Far West MO (these are all significant historical places of our church). Looking back over the past three years, there was no way that I could have imagined all the blessings that have come our way because of the decision we made to move. I can imagine the Lord saying to me:
"Tom, when you're done thinking you know where you need to be, I'll let you know where I need you."
Or in other words, maybe what I should have been thinking all along is:
Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done
The Lord knows what He has in store for us, and sometimes all we have to do is move over to the passenger seat and let Him drive for awhile.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Seek ye out of the best books...

I love to read...I always have. I was a voracious reader when I was young, and I still read whenever I get the time (which sadly is a lot less than it used to be). Maybe that's why I love this scripture from Doctrine & Covenants so much:
And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith. (D&C 88:118)
This counsel was important enough that it was repeated twice more (see D&C 109:7,14). So with that in mind, I thought I'd share just a few bits of wisdom from some of my favorite books:

First, from "A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L'Engle:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident!" she shouted, "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
As she cried out the words she felt a mind moving in on her own, felt IT seizing, squeezing her brain. Then she realized that Charles Wallace was speaking, or being spoken through by IT.
"But that's exactly what we have on Camazotz. Complete equality. Everybody exactly alike."
For a moment her brain reeled with confusion. Then came a moment of blazing truth. "No!" she cried triumphantly. "Like and equal are not the same thing at all!"

And this from "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand:

It is said that that he [Robin Hood] fought against the looting rulers and returned the loot to those who had been robbed, but that is not the meaning of the legend which has survived. He is remembered, not as a champion of property, but as a champion of need, not as a defender of the robbed, but as as a provider of the poor. He is held to be the first man who assumed a halo of virtue by practicing charity with wealth which he did not own, by giving away goods which he had not produced, by making others pay for the luxury of his pity. He is the man who became the symbol of the idea that need, not achievement, is the source of rights, that we don't have to produce, only to want, that the earned does not belong to us, but the unearned does. He became a justification for every mediocrity who, unable to make his own living, has demanded the power to dispose of the property of his betters, by proclaiming his willingness to devote his life to his inferiors at the price of robbing his superiors. It is this foulest of creatures--the double-parasite who lives on the sores of the poor and the blood of the rich--whom men have come to regard as a moral ideal. And this has brought us to a world where the more a man produces, the closer he comes to the loss of all his rights, until, if his ability is great enough, he becomes a rightless creature delivered as prey to any claimant--while in order to be placed above rights, above principles, above morality, placed where anything is permitted to him, even plunder and murder, all a man has to do is to be in need. Do you wonder why the world is collapsing around us?...Until men learn that of all human symbols, Robin Hood is the most immoral and the most contemptible, there will be no justice on the earth and now way for mankind to survive.

And finally from "The Fellowship of the Ring" by J.R.R. Tolkien:

"I am sorry," said Frodo. "But I am frightened; and I do not feel any pity for Gollum."
 "You have not seen him," Gandalf broke in.
 "No, and I don't want to," said Frodo. "I can't understand you. Do you mean to say that you, and all the Elves, have let him live on after all those horrible deeds? Now at any rate he is as bad as an Orc, and just an enemy. He deserves death."
"Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends..."
I love finding these types of hidden gems of wisdom when I read. It gives me an appreciation and awareness that kernels of truth can be found in many places, although we still need to be seeking for spiritual confirmation that what we've read and studied and learned is true. And we need to keep in perspective that no matter how much knowledge we gain through study and faith, when compared to God we are nothing. He is the ultimate source of truth and we would be wise to remember that. Or, as we read in the Book of Mormon:

O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.

But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God. (2 Nephi 9:28-29)
Here's a list of some of my other favorite books/authors:

"Jesus the Christ" by James E. Talmage
"The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah" by Alfred Edersheim
"The Screwtape Letters" by C.S Lewis
"Mere Christianity" by C.S Lewis
"The Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis
"The Prydain Chronicles" by Lloyd Alexander
"The Dark is Rising" by Susan Cooper
"The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand
"Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl
"1984" by George Orwell
"Animal Farm" by George Orwell
"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams
"Les Miserables" by Victor Hugo

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Chicken Pox & Video Games

A few years ago (thanks to social networking) there was a revival of sorts, where parents would seek out other parents who had children infected with chicken pox and try to set up "pox parties". These would be in two versions-the first would be to invite local kids who had the disease to your house in order to expose all your kids to them and the disease. This would either 1) give the healthy kids an immunity to the disease or 2) give the healthy kids the disease. The rationale behind this was that it was better to get the disease as a child instead of an adult so they might as well get it over with. The second version of the "pox party" was to have parents of infected children send suckers/lollipops, blankets, cups, etc.  through the mail that their sick children had licked or handled to parents of healthy children, who would then be exposed to the disease with the same results as version #1.
( Article here )

For most of us, this seems like an incredibly stupid thing to do (because it is). But here are some of the reasons that these parents choose to participate in these "parties":
  • It's only chicken pox-it's not that bad
  • My children will be exposed to it eventually anyway-this way I can control their exposure
  • This will help them build up tolerance for the disease
  • I don't need the government telling me that vaccines are mandatory
I would assume that the majority of parents would agree that seeking out and inviting diseases into our homes and then forcing our children to be exposed to them is a really, really, really bad idea. Instead we get them vaccinated so that they are immune, try to avoid coming in contact with infected people, and try to keep our homes clean and disinfected. We teach our children to turn their heads away from others when they cough or sneeze. We have them use soap and water. We use disinfectant sprays and cleaners. We wash our dishes and our clothes. We pay attention to news reports about outbreaks of diseases. We keep our kids home from school and church when they are sick to help prevent the spread of illnesses to others. In summary, we do everything we possibly can to protect our families and keep them safe and healthy.

So who don't we do the same thing when it comes to the different forms of media that we allow/bring in our homes? I've heard discussions at work and online where some parents though it was perfectly acceptable to allow their children to play "M" rated video games (and we're talking anywhere from 3 years old to 16 years old).

Here are some of the reasons excuses that they gave for allowing this:

  • My kids see and hear this stuff everywhere anyway
  • My kids know what's real and what's not
  • I draw the line at the sexually suggestive games but I'm ok with the violence
  • Ratings are just a guide-they're not really that accurate
  • They need to know what's out there in the "real world"
  • These games aren't really that bad
  • It's not like my kids are using drugs or anything-at least they're home and I know what they're doing
These sound a lot like the reasons given for having "pox parties" don't they?

Why are so many of us so diligent in protecting our families from physical dangers (i.e. disease, fire, injury, etc) but are so lax when it comes to protecting our families from spiritual and emotional dangers? These dangers are far worse than physical diseases, and exposure to media filth does not create an immunity; it makes them sick for life.

Here are some words of counsel and advice from a couple of General Conference talks:

From Larry R. Lawrence in an October 2010 talk titled "Courageous Parenting" ( Link here ):

In these last days, what the world really needs is courageous parenting from mothers and fathers who are not afraid to speak up and take a stand.
Young people understand more than we realize because they too have the gift of the Holy Ghost. They are trying to recognize the Spirit when He speaks, and they are watching our example. From us they learn to pay attention to their promptings—that if they “don’t feel good about something,” it’s best not to pursue it.
It’s so important for husbands and wives to be united when making parenting decisions. If either parent doesn’t feel good about something, then permission should not be granted. If either feels uncomfortable about a movie, a television show, a video game, a party, a dress, a swimsuit, or an Internet activity, have the courage to support each other and say no.

And from Elder Joe J. Christensen in an October 1993 talk titled "Rearing Children in a Polluted Environment" ( Link Here ):

Although there are some uplifting exceptions, in most areas of the mass media there seems to be a declaration of war against almost everything the majority treasures most: the family, religion, and patriotism. Marriage is degraded, while premarital and extramarital relations are encouraged and glamorized. Profanity and the foulest of vulgar gutter language bombard the ears of all who listen. Reportedly, in one R-rated movie, the most common, vulgar four-letter word was spoken 256 times! Human life itself is trivialized by the constant barrage of violence and killings. Remember that anything that is not good for children is rarely good for adults. (emphasis added)
Even though your children say, “Well, everyone else is going to stay out until one or two in the morning, and their parents don’t care. Why can’t I? Don’t you trust me?” let them know that there are some things that, as members of your family, you simply do not do. Some parents seem to be almost pathologically concerned about their children’s popularity and social acceptance and go along with many things that are really against their better judgment, such as expensive fads, immodest clothes, late hours, dating before age sixteen, R-rated movies, and so on. For children and parents, standing up for what is right may be lonely at times. There may be evenings alone, parties missed, and movies which go unseen. It may not always be fun. But parenting is not a popularity contest. (emphasis added).

Are we going to be able to protect our children and our families 100% from the degrading influences that are out there? Of course not, but we can do everything in our power to limit the exposure and to make our homes a place of refuge. We can and must control what is on our televisions, our computers, our smart phones, our mp3 players, our video game consoles, etc. And, as Paul said to the Ephesians:

11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;