I was so touched to see this bit of humanity, this respect and consideration for the stranger. It is one reason I love living in a city: where we are all so close together, we have more opportunity to exercise and witness kindness.
Why does the act of charity, in this case, the transaction initiated by a beggar or panhandler, feel so uncomfortable to me? Mental recriminations if I give, guilt if I don’t. Perhaps it is because I don’t know the protocol, the expectations, and so I’m worried about an inadvertent transgression. But it isn’t that hard to act, to find a way to overcome my anxiety and hesitation to do something small.
There is a certain category of life-experiences that I refer to as “Twenty-Mark Note” stories. The name for these experiences comes from a talk by the same name, given by President Packer at BYU-Idaho in 2002 (excerpted below). I suspect that once you read President Packer’s remarks, you’ll immediately recall your own Twenty-Mark experiences:
NPR recently did a story about a group of reporters’ visit to the newly constructed Draper Temple. The Draper Temple, by all appearances, is characteristically beautiful. I am as intrigued by the process of building a new temple, as I am by the end product itself. Some of the most marvelous stories from church history involve sacrifices that the Saints – ancient and modern – have made in order to build a House consecrated to the Lord. Unfortunately, the sacrifices and challenges that go into constructing a temple are often not immediately apparent, particularly to those of us living in North America. Looking at the process from the outside, temple construction is a very clean process – one which very few of us have any direct involvement with. Most of us only participate in temple construction through tithes and offerings. The physical experience of building a temple is missing, for most of us. That’s why I find the following photos chronicling some of the construction of the Aba Nigeria temple so inspiring. They remind me that temples are of such importance that we are willing to go to great lengths to ensure that members have access to them. A colleague at Church headquarters shared these pictures with me when I worked there a few years ago:
Merry Christmas from Christmases past!
On the sweetness of Mormon life.
Every writer’s worst nightmare actually came true for Hugh J. Cannon: the only copy of his manuscript was “misplaced” by the publisher. . .
Thanksgiving seems a good time to think about my membership in the Church and my gratitude for the Gospel. In other words, it seems to be a particularly good time for me to reflect on my conversion.
As I was reading the paper yesterday on the train to work, I happened across a short article discussing the use of religious images in today’s popular fashion culture. The article discussed shirts and sweaters from top fashion houses that are now bearing images of Jesus or scriptural verses, and it mentioned that celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Paris Hilton have recently been seen wearing clothing with religious messages. The text was accompanied by a large photo spread, showing celebrities including Kutcher wearing clothes with religious messages (his shirt read “Jesus is my homeboy”). Apparently, Jesus is becoming a fashion statement. He may even be hip. How pathetic.
Yesterday at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, here at Notre Dame, I attended a service of prayer and lamentation called “Tenebrae”, remembering the darkness of the night when Christ suffered in Gethsemane and was arrested, and anticipating his death. It closed with a final candle carried out, leaving us in complete darkness, and the congregation producing a loud noise, like the rolling of the stone to close the grave. Today I had a conversation with some friends, in which we reflected on the meaning of these events, and the difference in the darkness from a Mormon point of view.
In the noble tradition of literary hacks who never miss an opportunity to recycle old material, here are the interesting bits of a sacrament meeting talk I delivered in church today. Repentance is, at its simplest, a turning away from sin and a returning to God.
Yesterday’s post on suicide by Gordon Smith stirs several memories of experiences I have had with friends and ward members who struggled with suicidal tendencies. I appreciate the quote he provided from Bruce R. McConkie about the Lord’s mercy for those struggling with suicidal tendencies. I have seen a variety of small and sometimes very large miracles in the Lord’s dealings with those who have suffered greatly and are considering suicide.
We often say that Christ was sinless, that he was the only sinless human being. Surprisingly, that isn’t a teaching that we find often in the scriptures. The word “sinless” doesn’t occur in the scriptures. Using the sacrificial type, two scriptures describe him as “without spot” (Hebrews 9:14, 1 Peter 1:19). We infer his sinlessness from other scriptures and, especially, from the teaching of latter-day prophets. But what does it mean to say that he was sinless?
I went to New Orleans this weekend to see my brother undergoing the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (i.e., an adult convert baptism into the Catholic Church).
On March 5, 1987, my son Neill Earl Smith was born. Three months later, he died of pneumonia. He was a victim of a rare neurological disorder known as Werdnig-Hoffman Syndrome. He would be 17 years old now. My wife and I have had five other children, but I still miss him.
Recently, through Times & Seasons, I reconnected with a friend from BYU and Law School. Sean Lindsay is now working as an attorney for Qwest in Denver. We first met at BYU, where both of us worked as tutors in the Reading and Writing Center along with another law school classmate, Shawn Bentley. (Just a side note: the Director of the Reading and Writing Center at that time was a kind professor named William Shakespeare!) By the time that I was deciding where to attend law school, Sean had left BYU and was pursuing a Ph.D in English at the University of Chicago.
Mormons believe in revelation. Within limits. Admittedly, what I am about to say is a gross overgeneralization, but I hope that it will provoke some interesting discussion. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a rich tradition of public and private revelation, but in my experience, most members of the Church do not trust in their own ability to receive revelation. Moreover, those who profess to receive revelation often are viewed with skepticism by other members. Given that our history includes lunatics like the Laffertys, such skepticism is not without foundation. Nevertheless, I think we shortchange ourselves through our fear.
In honor of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I offer some excerpts from a sermon he delivered August 9, 1964 at Riverside Church in New York City. It is entitled “A Knock at Midnight.” ___ This morning I would like to have you think with me on the subject of a knock at midnight. Out text is taken from the very familiar parable as recorded by St. Luke: “And he said to them, ‘Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him”; and he will answer from within, “Do not bother me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything”? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs.’”
Three days ago, I returned from a faculty development program in Delhi, India. While I attempted to adjust to Central Standard Time immediately upon arrival, I wasn’t successful. On Saturday afternoon, I fell exhausted on my bed and took a much-needed nap. Unfortunately, I awoke just in time to send the rest of my family to bed, and I have been awake since, reading and pondering. Something I encountered on Times & Seasons inspired me to write this entry. I hope that you will not begrudge me the opportunity to share a testimony in this sea of intellectualism.
When I was 15, my Grandma Joe cried as she read this story from the newspaper to me and my brothers and sisters. Seeing the story touch her helped it touch me. “I am a poor boy too” has been my favorite line from The Little Drummer Boy ever since.