Category: mission

Good Luck, Wilson!

My younger brother Wilson left on his 2 year Mormon mission to Curitiba Brazil this morning. Speaking as a returned missionary myself, I honestly can’t say I really envy him. I mean, there were some good times on my mission, and I am 100% thankful I went, but it was some of the hardest 2 years of my life. (I can say this now that he’s gone and can’t read this–no internet for you, Wilson!) For those of you who don’t know, a mission lasts for 2 years, during which time you have no television, no movies, no books, no newspapers, no phone calls (except to your family on Christmas and Mother’s Day), no internet, no email–nada. Nothing but serving people and trying to teach about the church to people who often resent your efforts. Ah, the life of a missionary. 🙂 I remember my first night as a missionary very well–lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, wondering, “What in the WORLD have I gotten myself into?”

The good news is, it’s all worth it. My mission made me the person I am today. It taught me more than I’ve ever learned about life, people, leadership, religion–you name it. Dickens couldn’t have said it better: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it ws the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.”

Good luck, Wilson!

Church Talk

I had the chance to speak in church again yesterday. Since I’m still the Ward Mission leader and all, it was on missionary work again. For those of you interested, I’m providing the full text of my talk (entitled “Accountability” behind the cut. For those of you not interested . . . you’ll get nothing today. And like it!


Speaking in Church

I’m giving a talk in church on Sunday. Part of the territory when you don’t have a paid clergy is that the members of the congregation are regularly called upon to speak, teach lessons and the like. In fact, when I was in Slovakia, I talked twice in three weeks (fewer members = more frequent speaking duties). What am I going to talk about? Missionary work. Specifically, why I was surprised so many people in my church thought my new calling (Ward Mission Leader) was a bad one. I think sometimes members of the Mormon church look at the church’s missionary efforts as something sort of like going to the dentist. They know they’re supposed to be doing it, but it’s uncomfortable and often painful. For those of you not in “the know,” the Mormon church has a stated threefold mission:

    • Perfect the Saints–meaning that the Church ought to be helping its members become better individuals. This is a mission I think most religions see no issue with and try to do as well. Nothing too noteworthy here.


  • Proclaim the Gospel–meaning that the Church tries to inform people about what the church is, with the ultimate goal of having people join the Church. One of the missions of the Church that alarms other religions quite a bit and can come across as threatening to



  • Redeem the Dead–Quite possibly the most unique mission of the Church. We believe that all people–living or dead–must be given the opportunity to choose whether or not to join the Church by being baptized. Thus, baptisms are performed by proxy for those who are dead. You might have read some news articles about this. The Church can sometimes land in hot water when boneheads get baptized for Hitler or some other asinine thing happens. Lots of members means that sooner or later, stupidity happens. I can discuss this mission of the church later, if people care to know more about it. No time right now.


In any case, the second mission (Proclaim the Gospel) is the reason for all those Mormon missionaries scurrying around all your cities, dressed in white shirts and ties, scriptures in hand. In addition to this, members are encouraged to let their acquaintances and friends know about the church and even (gasp!) see if people would be interested in having the missionaries over to learn more. This is where I think the trouble starts, and where missionary work gets a bad rap. Because no one likes to feel like they’re selling out their friends. And it can be a nerve wracking experience, trying to ask someone you know and respect (and who hopefully knows and respects you) to see if they’d be interested in learning more about your religion. But I don’t think it has to be like that.

Ideally, Mormons are Mormons because they believe in the doctrines of the church and have found that living by those doctrines helps them be happier. I think everyone I work with knows I’m a Mormon, and they have a general idea of some of the things I do at my church. If/when religion comes up, I’m happy to talk about it and share my beliefs. But did you see that word? Share. It’s a two way street. I don’t believe in me just spouting out about this that and the other and not letting other people get a word in edgewise. I’m interested in what other people believe. And I realize I’m getting on a soapbox now, and I really ought to shut up. Suffice it to say that I think the worst thing a Mormon could do is become friends with someone for the sole purpose of telling that someone about the Church.

I was born into this religion, but I’m still a part of this religion because I studied it, prayed about it and felt strongly it was true. It’s made me a happier man and brought me a lot of joy. If other people want to know more, I’m happy to tell them more. I don’t hide my religion from others, but I don’t jam it down their throats, either. At least I hope I don’t. Feel free to say if I do in the comments. 🙂

Anyway–sorry about this rambling post. Just thoughts for my talk on Sunday. If you’d like to hear the full thing, come to the Mormon meeting house on Sunday morning at 10:00AM. 🙂

Have a nice weekend.


Various things to post today. First and foremost: the time has come. I’m up to 228 pounds, and that’s about 28 pounds above what I’d ideally like to be. 18 pounds over where I’d be comfortable, even if I wasn’t completely satisfied. Just a year or two ago I was at 205. I can do better. How did I get here? Stress put on a lot of it–meaning that I was stressed, so I justified my eating more. Comfort weight. The candy jar on the third floor of the library is helping me keep that weight on, as is my habit of baking things at home and then eating those baked goods. Cursed brownies. With frosting. Sigh.

So I’m going to do my best to be hungry again for a while. See if I can’t at least get down to 215. If I make it that far, I’ll try to keep going and see if I can’t make it to 200. Crazier things have happened. Maybe I’ll even start going to the gym again.

In other news, I now have my iPod hooked in directly to my car stereo. This brings me great joy. This morning on my drive to work I listened to two songs: Der Wolf’s Haette ich dich heut’ erwartet and Vanilla Ice’s Ice Ice Baby. Der Wolf’s song is a reggae rap adaptation of the German version of the Sesame Street classic, If I Knew You Were Coming, I’d Have Baked a Cake. Obscure enough for you? I love it. First heard it on my mission in Germany while I was in Schwarzenberg, and it’s stuck with me since. Actually, I have a funny story about how I got that CD. I ordered it from a German music store in Germany–to send to my brother as a gift. The guy in the store seemed very nice. Of course, when it finally arrived, it turned out he’d ordered me the wrong CD. And he wanted me to buy it. When I refused, he got rather upset and started complaining about Christians and how hypocritical we all were. Sigh. I have a theory of how this all relates to Communism, but I’m guessing you don’t want to hear about that.


The second song, Ice Ice Baby, has had a fairly consistent presence in my life. First of all, I was made fun of in middle school, since my name (which was rather obscure at the time) rhymed with Ice. (I also got the whole Rice-a-roni treatment fairly often.) On my mission, my companion (Elder Anderson) and I would pass the time walking through Weimar by him teaching me the first verse of Vanilla Ice’s epic. When I was in Jerusalem, my friend Jonathan Stone helped me get down the other verses. We practiced at Masada, and we’re convinced we’re the only two people who ever rapped the whole thing up there. So now I have a claim to fame beyond being the only author to ever pen an alpaca fantasy.

And now YOU know a bit more about me and my music tastes. I’ve often thought it would be cool if cars had a “Now Playing” feature on the outside, where we could see what people were listening to while we drove around. And that’s all the time I have to blog today.

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