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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Stone Cut Out of the Mountain Pt. II

Well, I have to tell you, my determination really paid off.  Tell me how this sounds: I was abandoned, neglected, and rarely talked about for 25 years while the big wigs tried to figure out what to do with me.  And not only that, I was abandoned and neglected outside!  In the elements!  Sounds great, right?  You're right.  It wasn't great.  I remember thinking to myself, "Well, you really showed them up, didn't you?  All this rain and wind and snow and blazing sun are really doing wonders for my texture and durability!  What was I thinking?!"  And so for 25 long years I sat there, worthless, dejected and beaten by the storms. 

The turn of the sixteenth century (that's 1500 for all you math whizzes out there) found me less-than enthused; in fact, I had just about given up hope on ever becoming anything more than a poorly-formed, misshapen hunk of rock.  Then one day, the patrons of the cathedral where I was stationed came rushing in, shouting the name of some new artist they had found--"a real prodigy! a Master!" they had said.  Well you can bet how excited I was after being treated by the last "master" they'd sent my way, but I figured anything at this point would be better than what I'd been doing for the last two-and-a-half decades.  They acclaimed him as the most promising sculptor of the new age ("Renaissance", they called it), for he had completed a most beautiful statue the year prior, which they called La Pieta.  I was intrigued by their accolades, but held my peace until I could see firsthand who this man really was. 

They called him "Michelangelo".

I will never forget that September morning when that graceful young man approached me on the sculpting platform.  He was so different than the last man who had come to chisel on me that for a while I was simply stunned by his demeanor.  He didn't even touch the chisel that first day.  I will never forget this as long as I stand: he came up and greeted me, calling me his friend.  He then laid his hands on my sides, not in a probing, caustic way, but with the touch of a Master--I don't know how to explain it other than that.  He examined what had been done on my corner so long ago by the other sculptor, shaking his head and saying he had done me wrong.  Then he sat down, with his back against mine, pondering and sketching on paper how he would work his plan; every stroke of his charcoal, every look and every movement seemed to be calculated with divine precision.  He considered my every angle and niche; where my marbling was most durable and where it was weaker; and even some qualities I had not recognized in myself.  He spoke his thoughts, not to himself, but to me, as if he felt my considerations were important.  I tell you, I was so enraptured by this young man's care, that when he left that day, I longed for him to return.  It was an experience that caught me quite off-guard.

As the extra stone came down, so did the walls
 I had built around my heart
As the weeks passed, I began to see that it was not just his preparation that was calculated and caring, but his execution as well.  He worked his plan with great skill and precision, knocking off every bit of excess that I could not help but be grateful that the superfluous stone was gone.  As the chunks of extra stone came down, so did the walls I had built around my heart toward this Master.  Sure, the chiseling was still uncomfortable, but he made sure I was becoming something more, something worthy of the highest accolades and honors.  Oftentimes I would get frustrated, not knowing where his chisel would fall, and when it did, why he would strike there, but in time I learned to trust his skill and rely on his masterful plan; indeed, I began to see myself shaping into the form of someone graceful and mighty, as I never had before supposed.

Truly this was what I was meant to become.

To be continued...

Image from http://www.carraramarble.it/images_en/products/blocks/marbles_bianco_venato_standard.jpg

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Stone Cut Out of the Mountain Pt. I

You might think this weird, reading a story written by a block of stone--Italian marble, to be precise--but that's what you're doing.  It has never been an easy life, as you might expect, but I hope my story helps you fleshier folks appreciate what you've got.  It's not much, but here it goes.

My home--Carrara Quarry, Italy

I was born over three hundred thousand... well, you don't want to hear about that long ago do you?  That's boring.  Mostly just lava and hot and... yeah.  Fast-forward to the year 1464.  I was discovered and roughly hewn from the warmth of Mother Earth in my home of Carrara, a marble quarry in the Italian Alps.  I was, needless to say, a little upset.  After being jostlingly carted to the city of Florence, I was taken to a large building where men of all shapes and sizes examined me over and over, feeling every bump and scrutinizing every surface (quite embarrassing, if you think about it).  They told one another of my great potential, how priceless and beautiful I was (my narcissism got the best of me there), how only the greatest sculptor, a Master, would be able to form me into the perfect statue.  They mentioned how I was to become a great and marvelous statue to personify some other man who had been dead for centuries.  All narcissism aside, that didn't exactly sound like my cup of tea. 

 "Great," I said to myself.  "They don't even care about what I want!  All they can think of is their selfish pursuits!  Well!  We'll see who erodes first!"

Finally, a man named Agostino was selected to "shape me up" into this statue or whatever.  I can still remember the first day he walked into the studio--he didn't look like much of a "Master" to me, but hey, I'm just an eons-old hunk of rock, what do I know, right?  He strode onto the platform, picked up his chisel and hammer, looked at me for a few minutes, and then BANG!! Right in my side!  Oh how it hurt!  and it didn't stop!  BANG, BANG, BANG! Oh boy, it still makes me cringe just to think about it.  I hated the chiseling!  It was so bad that first day that I said to him "Hey! what are you doing?!  you think that feels good?!"  But he wouldn't listen.  He just kept on chiseling!  So again I say to him "Hey!  Cut that out!... no don't cut that out of me, I mean stop!  It is really uncomfortable!!"  Nothing.  Day after day I pleaded, begged, and almost grovelled (not "gravelled", that's something different) for him to stop; despite my pleas, he still chipped, brushed, and pounded away at my beautiful marble, leaving a strange-looking lump where my corner used to be.  I wasn't altogether happy about this. 

So I decided to think very hard thoughts, hoping to toughen up enough to break that puny little chisel of his, or at least make him tired enough to want to stop.  Well, guess what--it worked.  Now, the historians will tell you a more complicated story about how Agostino needed some time off, then a man named Rossellino stepped in but couldn't quite hack it (no pun intended)... No.  I was the one who bested them.  I knew better than they what my potential was!  A statue?  No.  No man could be as majestic or glorious as I; no man would catch the public's gaze as could my brilliant marble sheen; and certainly, no "Master" could ever design a product as magnificent and breath-taking as a block of Carraran marble!

...Or so I thought. 

...They called him "Michaelangelo"...

To be continued...

Image from: http://www.artinfo.com/media/image/4154/BurtynskyCarraraMarbleQuarries.jpg
Historical info from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_(Michelangelo)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Give Thanks!

The story is told in our family, that during the first winter in the New World, the pilgrims' food supply was so scant that the rationing of corn came down to 5 kernels a day for each person.  They relied on God to carry them through that terrible first year, and were eventually blessed with an abundance.  In memory of their state, each Thanksgiving our family takes 5 kernels of candy corn and enumerates our 5 most cherished blessings.  Indulge me, if you will, as I carry on that tradition here on my blog.

  1. Legs and arms that work--I run and do push-ups every day.  My arms and legs get tired.  But you know what?  At least I have legs and arms that have the possibility of getting tired!  I am so thankful for my limbs!  They grant me so many freedoms that I take for granted every day! Thanks, Father, for legs and arms!
  2. Food--I know this one is at the top of every world hunger activist's list, but for me, it is a big deal because I LOVE FOOD.  I don't know what I would do without it.  And here I am stuffing my face everyday when there are seriously people right here in Northern California, even who don't have enough to last one day.  I am thankful for food!
  3. Clothes--for those of you who know me personally, you know I'm kind of metro when it comes to my clothes.  What can I say?  I like to look good!  I am so grateful to have a closet full of shirts, a dresser full of socks, and more than one pair of good, solid shoes.  Especially now it's getting on into winter, it's nice to be able to wear clothes that keep me warm (and stylish). **note** Hair also falls into this category.  Someone very dear to me has recently had to lose all of her hair because of cancer.  I am thankful for my hair!
  4. My family--I've posted about them before, but I want everyone within the sound of my voice (so to speak) to know that I am grateful for such a great family.  On my mission I've seen a lot of families that are broken, dysfunctional, and downright destroyed.  I am overwhelmingly thankful, beyond words really, for parents who thought more about me and my 3 brothers and 1 darling sister than themselves, who didn't do drugs or waste their money on frivolous pursuits; for brothers who help me realize my true potential and strive for my personal best; for a sister who helps me learn tenderness and gentility; for my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and so on, who pass on the great legacy of faith that I cherish, which helps me build my solid foundation on the rock of Jesus Christ.
  5. My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ--I cannot put into words what He means to me each day.  All I can do is live how He wants me to live and serve my fellow man.  I am forever indebted to Him for His love and selfless sacrifice on my behalf.
I am one of the most blessed people I know.  I have so much to be thankful for (this list is inexhaustive--I have simply named some of my choicest blessings) and so much to live for.  Thank you for being a part of my life and sharing these moments with me. 

Much Love,

Elder Spendlove

P.S. Comment with some of your choicest blessings!  It will surprise you what the Lord has done! 

Image from: http://theformofmoney.blogharbor.com/ThanksgivingFirst.jpg

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Our Great Patronus

I understand that the new Harry Potter movie just came out, which would make me really excited to see it, except I am on a mission and as missionaries we don't focus on popular media, rather we focus on teaching the gospel.  Even so, I happen to enjoy reading the books and watching the films--one of my favortie parts in the books is where Harry learns how to cast the patronus charm.  As the story goes, this spell, the only one powerful enough to combat the Dementors--sepulchral phantasms that steal your happiness and your soul (you know, nothing too big)--gets its power from the caster's happiest emotions.  The spell is unique to each person who calls upon it, based on their happiness, optimism, and personal experiences.  If you've read the book or seen the movie, you know just how effective this spell was for Harry in combatting the darkness he faced.

As I've pondered this, there is a really cool truth there that, whether J.K. Rowling meant it or not, can effect each of us in a very profound way.  When we are faced with trials that want to steal our happiness or seemingly suck out our very souls, we can draw upon the light of truth and joy that comes from Jesus Christ.  He is our great patronus.  In Latin, patronus means "defender", "counsel", "advocate", and "protector".  I know Jesus Christ is our greatest defender, advocating our cause with Heavenly Father, Who is waiting to shower blessings and dispel the darkness.  I love my great Protector, my Elder Brother, my Savior and Redeemer.  I know He will help you as you combat your personal "Dementors".  As the Lord counseled Joshua of old: "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid... for the LORD thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest."  (Joshua 1:9)

Much Love,

Elder Spendlove

Imeage from: http://images4.fanpop.com/image/photos/16300000/Patronus-Charm-harry-potter-16349306-539-358.jpg

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

More Fit for the Kingdom: Part II

More Fit for the Kingdom
by Chris Spendlove

"My son... rise, my boy." The knight resurfaced from the depths of a turbulent sleep. His vision came into focus upon the sadly smiling face of his beloved King. The knight had been brought back to the castle and was now lying in the bed of the King Himself! "Oh, my son... you heeded not my counsel and warnings. You have been gravely wounded by that old serpent. But I will make you whole." The King smiled as He said this, and laid a reassuring hand on the shoulder of the knight. The knight wept bitterly.

"O, my King! I have betrayed you! I have turned my thoughts away from the light and meddled with the things of darkness! Forgive me! I beg you...forgive me..." The knight covered his face in his hands--he was too ashamed to be looked upon by the King.

"I will make you whole, my son. But you must put your trust in me. You must not go astray again, and you must re-learn what it means to be a knight. It will be difficult and the poisons of the dragon will sting as they leave your body, but I love you, my son, and I will stay by your side until you are healed." The knight looked into the eyes of his King, and he knew that the King could not lie. He nodded, and embraced the King.

"I will put my trust in you, my Lord. I know that you can do many mighty works and can heal me of this poison and fix my broken body and spirit." The King laid the young man back down, and the knight presently fell asleep.

When he awoke, the King was still by his side. The King was preparing a balm to apply to the wounds of the knight. "You must know that you have lost the trust of the villagers," the King said gravely. "They have lost much in the dragon's attack, and will lose much more while you heal. They have suffered much, but I think they will learn to forgive you in time." The King smiled softly and applied the balm. It seared the knight's flesh, and he yelped because of the pain. "This will be uncomfortable," the King continued, "but it will save your life." The knight, still smarting from the balm, realized that this pain was nothing compared to the anguish that he had caused the poor villagers by his actions.

"They trusted in me," he said softly, "and I betrayed that trust by not being the man they needed me to be. I must repay the debt that I owe them--when I am well again, I will rebuild their houses, work in their fields, and serve them in their homes."

"And you must again face that dragon," the King reminded him. "You must show them that you are capable of defending them from the evils of this world as you did before. I will heal you, my son, but you must then do your part--protect the people, be the true and just defender you were born to be." The weeks passed, and slowly the knight regained his strength. Daily, the King taught him once more how to be a knight; the young man loved being instructed so, and he resolved within himself to be a bold defender. And if he was wounded in his efforts to defend the people, the King promised that He would heal the knight, as long as he would learn from the battle.

The day came when the knight was fully healed and ready to face the dragon again. "The dragon said he would come back to watch me die," the knight told the King. "Perhaps he will return today, thinking that I am soon to perish."

"You must be ever watchful, my son, for the day when the dragon comes. You must be prepared. I want you to have these," said the King, presenting the knight with a bright new set of armor, a sharpened sword of excellent craftsmanship, and a large shield, upon which was emblazoned the Crest of the King. "The best knights are those who get back up when they fall, who put their trust in their King, and face the challenges of life with hope. You have the makings of a great knight.  I love you.  I have confidence in you. Now go, my son, and be the defender you were born to be."

It was with confidence that the knight strode past the portcullis and out onto the drawbridge of the castle. The King had taught him to have hope, to put his best foot forward, and to keep moving forward in the face of opposition. The knight knew he had a solid foundation in the love of the King, and that no matter the circumstances, the King would be there to heal his wounds.

The villagers looked rather angrily at him as he walked through the town, and he heard them whispering under their breaths. The knight tried to offer apologies to them for the sorrow he had caused, but many of the townsfolk turned angrily away without a word. Others looked at him sadly, as if longing for the old knight to return, the knight who had defended them so bravely. "I will be their knight. I will use what I have learned from the King to protect these people from harm. It is my charge. It is my duty."

The knight spent the afternoon seeking to make amends with the people. As the sun set, the knight retired to his tent, seeking to get some rest in preparation for the oncoming confrontation with the dragon.

The morning came early; the golden fingers of dawn caressed the eyes of the young knight, beckoning him to rise. He polished his armor, sharpened the sword, and cleaned the shield with the same meticulous care as before, and headed out into the clear morning. No sooner had he set out, than the cry of "Dragon! dragon! who will save us?!" rang out from the square. The knight was ready. he had been anticipating this moment for weeks, had been preparing himself mentally, spiritually, and physically under the care of the King, and was now ready to prove himself to the villagers--he would show them that they could once again rely on him for support and defense. It was his duty.

The dragon roared with laughter as he spewed flames from deep in his gullet. "Where is you precious defender now?" he cackled, torching a cart of apples. "Your knight is dying! Fear, peasants! fear!"

"STOP!" shouted the knight. The dragon wheeled around to face the man in bright armor, sword ablaze with the morning sun. "I will defend these people, even if it costs me my life! Either you or I or both of us will die right here, right now!" The knight stared the dragon straight in the eyes, and, brandishing his sword with mighty conviction, rushed at the dragon.

"Hmph! Impudent boy! I crushed you once, I will crush you again!" The dragon reared up on his hind legs and barred his teeth.

Sword met claw, sending sparks into the air. The young knight fought not for himself, but for the safety of the people and for the honor of the King; he contended bravely against the evil dragon, using his shield to protect him from the dragon's fire and from the sharp fangs and claws. His sword was a piercing ray of light, scoring the black scales and flesh of the dragon with each stroke. The dragon was surprised at the courage of the knight--he had been so weak in their last encounter that the dragon underestimated the new-found bravery and conviction of his opponent. The dragon began to fear for his life as the knight blocked his swipes and parried with powerful blows to his neck and shoulders. Letting out a mighty roar, the dragon retreated toward his cave. "I will return, knight, and you will pay dearly for
this encounter!!"

The villagers slowly appeared in the doorways of their homes and shops. The knight was burnt in some places, scratched and bruised in others, but he was alive and well; his armor had served him well against the vicious attacks of the dragon. As he looked into their faces, the young knight could see gratitude in the eyes of the people. Slowly, they began to applaud their defender. As the cheering grew, tears welled in the eyes of the young man--it was for them that he had fought so mightily, and it was for them that he lived. The knight realized that day that his life was meant to be lived for others, and that there were people who depended on his strength and stability. He would, with the King's support, defend these
people until the day he died, because it was with His support that he lived, and it was because of His gifts that he continued to fight.

The dragon was gone, but, they knew, he would return. And when he did, the knight would be there to protect and to defend and to serve them. More importantly even than that, the King would always be there too, watching with unparalleled love, willing to stand beside the wounded and ready to succor the needs of His people. The knight knew that he had a kind, wise Friend in the King, and that, no matter the circumstances, the King would guide and protect him. He could go forward with hope and be the defender he was born to be.

The End.

Monday, November 15, 2010

More Fit for the Kingdom-- A Short Story

This is an adaptation of a story I wrote during some particularly difficult times in my life.  I wrote myself into the character of the knight, but in all reality, we are each the knight in the story.  We all rely on our King for our support and our spiritual healing so that we can be the men and women He wants us to be.  I hope you enjoy this tale.

More Fit for the Kingdom
By Chris Spendlove

Once upon a time, there was a knight. He was a relatively new knight to the kingdom, but nonetheless willing to fight for his King and Country. His most valuable possessions in the whole world were a suit of armor, a sword, and a shield that the King had given him when he was brand new in the land.

Every day, the knight would polish the armor, checking for cracks and weak spots, sharpen the sword, lest he be caught off guard with a dull sword, and meticulously scrubbed the dirt and grime from his shield so as to keep himself protected in battle. He loved that armor, that sword, and the shield--he took such good care of them that the villagers, as they passed by on the way to the market or fields, would gaze in speechless wonder, and aspire to become gallant knights themselves.

"Once upon a time, there was a knight"

Everyone loved the knight, and not just because of his armor; he was kind to the children, chivalrous to the women, and helpful to the men. The villagers felt that they could always depend on him to follow through with commitments and to lend a hand in any and every endeavor. He was widely considered to be a very good knight indeed.

One day, as the knight was polishing his armor, he heard the cry of the villagers, and, poking his head out of his tent, the knight spied a ferocious dragon lumbering toward the village! The knight had been
warned that the dragon was a master deceiver, and even though one could plainly see he was a fire breathing monster, many had been tricked by his cunning. The knight hastily donned his armor, and, sword and shield in hand, rushed out to meet the dragon.

By the time the knight reached the village square, two peasants had already been devoured, a cart of grain had been upset, and a house was ablaze. "Oh boy," thought the knight. "This is one angry dragon! Armor? Check. Sword? Check. Shield? Check check." The knight rushed up to the dragon, brandishing his sword, yelling, "Alright, dragon! That's quite enough! You cannot be allowed to terrorize this village any longer!"

"But, my good lad," oozed the dragon--his voice was deep and rumbling, but he put on an air of sweet gentility. "I was only hungry. The food has been scarce around my cave, and I had no choice but to eat these villagers. Besides," he added, bending low next to the knight. "These two men were dishonest in their dealings! I have done your town a favor!" This startled the knight. Surely these men, who had been his friends, were good and honest men!

"You lie!" shouted the knight. "I knew these men, and, by golly, they were the most honest and true fellows you'll ever meet! Now, begone or I will use my sword--which is very sharp--and slay you right here!" Upon hearing this, the dragon became angry, but backed away (truth be told, he was a coward at heart). He eyed the knight's armor, looking for any crack or dent, and, finding none, he blew smoke from his nostrils and went away without another word.

The villagers rejoiced at the departure of the dragon. "You are such a brave and gallant knight that the dragon left without a fight! You truly are a great defender of the Kingdom! Three cheers for the brave knight!" That evening, a celebration was held in honor of the knight. "I suppose I AM a great defender, aren't I?" he thought to himself. The King Himself arrived in all His splendor to congratulate the knight. Later in the night, the King pulled the knight aside.

"My son," He said. "You have done well in defending our village against that old dragon. But be warned: the dragon will come back. He always does. He is a master of deception, as I told you before. He will invent new ways of destroying the people. And, if you are not careful in your preparation, the dragon will destroy you as well. He eyed your armor, didn't he?" The knight nodded. "I thought so. He was looking for cracks to get his awful claws into. Take care of that armor, my son. It will protect your life if you keep it in good repair."

The knight pondered over the words of the King. "Destroy me?" he thought as he lay in his bed that evening. "Did the King even see how well I handled the dragon? Clearly the King has never fought a dragon like this one before. Why, I'll bet I could slay that dragon without any armor on at all! Ha!" And with that notion, the knight fell asleep and dreamed of slaying hundreds of dragons.

In the weeks to come, the knight slowly became less diligent about cleaning his shield, sharpening his sword, and repairing his armor. In fact, the knight didn't wear his armor at all for a few days. When asked about his armor, the knight boasted that any dragon foolish enough to face him would be dead before he could say "Bob's your uncle." The villagers didn't quite know how to reply to the change in the knight's mien, so they just smiled and went on their ways. "Hm," he thought. "I wonder what's gotten into them?"

And, sure enough, the day came when that old dragon poked his ugly head into the village again. "Dragon! Dragon! help us, brave knight!" came the call. The knight reached for his armor, only to discover it was dirty, banged up, and starting to rust in some places. Slightly uneasy, the knight quickly strapped it on, grabbed his not-so-sharp sword and dingy shield, and rushed to the village.

The damage was worse this time: two houses had been leveled, their smouldering ruins littered with the bodies of the villagers, a cow had been slain, and much of the market had been pulverized. The dragon smiled slightly when he saw the knight run up, his armor in a state of disrepair.

"Well, well," he snarled. "If it isn't our gallant knight. How have you been? I am a fool to return when there is such a brave knight to oppose me."

"You've got that right!" retorted the knight, adjusting a loose strap under his arm. "I'm going to have to slay you this time, no questions asked."

"Surely you shall. But before you do me in, may I let you in on a secret? I'm not the enemy. It's that old King you should be after."

"Stop this! none of your lies! The King is good and just and cares for the welfare of His people!" cried the knight, brandishing his sword.

"Does he now? Is that why He sits on a golden throne and lets His people die? If He cared so much, wouldn't he come and face me Himself? risk His life for the good of His people? Some King, if you ask me," hissed the dragon. The knight began to ponder what the dragon had just said. He lowered his sword and shield slightly.

"No... you-you're wrong," the knight said half-heartedly. It DID seem like the King just sat on his throne, collect taxes, and make laws. Perhaps the dragon was right... The knight lowered his defenses.

Before he could respond, the dragon was upon him. He viciously ripped at the knight's armor with his claws and broke the weakened sword with his jaws. The knight struggled furiously against the might of the dragon, but to no avail. The dragon was merciless--he wounded the knight deeply with his claws and fangs. "I have not killed you," he laughed. "Not yet, at least. My claws and my fangs have a poison in
"I find it more enjoyable to watch you writhe in agony before you
perish. I will return..."
them that will destroy you slowly. I find it more enjoyable to watch you writhe in agony before you
perish. I will return to watch your last mortal moments." And, having left the knight in such a state, the dragon slipped away to his cave.

The knight slipped in and out of consciousness. Thoughts of despair resonated in his tortured mind: "How could I have been so foolish! I am no brave knight. I am worse than the dragon! And now I will die, a broken, foolish, incapable louse." The pains of the dragon's poison ebbed and flowed throughout his entire being; perhaps worse than the pain of the poison, however, were the pains of defeat, of losing the trust of the people, and, above all, harming the King. The King was a wise and loving monarch, and the knight had doubted Him. If only, if only he could somehow beg the King's forgiveness! But it was all over now. The knight, giving up his will to live, allowed himself to slip into unconsciousness...

To be concluded...

Friday, November 12, 2010

FAQ Fridays: The Word of Wisdom

I LOVE '80s music.  Love it.  My mom thought it was funny because the songs I was listening to when I graduated high school were the same songs she was listening to when she graduated high school.  One of the songs I love most is "Goody Two Shoes" by Adam Ant.  As we drove up to my college, my mom and I were talking about the social scene back in 1983 when this song was actually popular. She remarked to me that she and her friends would get asked something similar to a line in the song that says, "don't drink, don't smoke--what do you do?".  I thought it was interesting that not only our musical tastes paralleled, but also our obtrusive aversion to harmful substances upon which most of our classmates were avidly experimenting (though 25 years spanned us).  What is it about Mormon kids that make them different in that regard?  Why don't we engage in those habits and vices? Are we just a bunch of "goody two shoes"?  We don't drink, we don't smoke--what do we do?

Are Mormons just a bunch of "Goody Two Shoes"?

You may have wondered why your Mormon friends pass up the cocktails at business parties, the coffee in the break room, and never seem to have a light.  It isn't just because we're the designated drivers; our feelings regarding the use of certain things are rooted much more deeply than that. 

We believe that our bodies are sacred gifts from God.  Paul says our bodies are "temples of God", where the Holy Ghost can dwell if we don't defile them. Heavenly Father wants us to take good care of them by not using substances that damage them or rob us of our ability to choose.  That ability to choose is one of the most precious tools He has granted for us to keep His commandments and be happy.  Kind of hard to do that if you're a slave to a bottle or a little white stick.  Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, God has revealed what we should and should not put into our bodies--we should avoid coffee, tea, tobacco, alcohol, and harmful drugs because they damage us and take away that ability to choose; on the other hand, we should eat nutritiously, choosing grains, fruits, vegetables, and meat sparingly.  (**Note: nowhere in the Word of Wisdom are we forbidden to drink sodas or caffeinated beverages.  We are counseled by the prophets to abstain from things to which we may become addicted--caffeine is an easy one for many people.  Myth Busted)  We are promised incredible blessings of health, strength, knowledge, and above all, spiritual safety
if we remember to keep this "principle with a promise". 

I'm thankful for these guidelines because I have been able to enjoy a happy, healthy youth, free from a lot of the problems that early smoking, drinking, and use of drugs bring.  I am also thankful because it is evidence to me that God cares so much that it even matters to Him what I eat and drink!  That's so cool to me.  So I (and my totally hip mom--she's even on facebook, I'll have you know!) don't drink and I don't smoke.  What do I do?  I live a productive, active life, and I get to share these blessings with others.  If you are involved with these addictive substances, the Atonement of Jesus Christ can help you.  He knows what it feels like and He wants to help you out!  Here's a site that may help if you're trying to quit.

Much Love,

Elder Spendlove

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Prophets: God's Chosen Messengers

My last "real" post was about Joseph Smith, a modern-day prophet.  I've also posted previously about the need for apostles and prophets, the foundation upon which the Church of Christ has always been built.  Today I wanted to briefly explain what a prophet is and why Mormons are so grateful for them that we even have a hymn entitled "We Thank Thee, O God for a Prophet"!

Unfortunately for us, we aren't in God's physical presence--much to Cheryl Crow's dismay, He is not just a "stranger on the bus", walking and talking with us.  Notwithstanding, He wants us to do the things that will bring us true and lasting happiness.  How does He therefore communicate those things to us?  He inspires men, starting with Adam all the way down to today, and gives them His word and His law.  In Amos 3:7, we learn that "surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secrets [His will, doctrines, etc.] unto his servants the prophets."  Pretty awesome, right?  Well you and I may think so, but repeatedly throughout time, people have rejected the words of the prophets.  I guess they just didn't like getting told off... Does God then say "Well great!  I sent you my prophets and you rejected them--good luck!  Have a nice life!" and leave us?  Of course not!  He wants as many of us back to Him as will choose.  So He sends another prophet when the people are ready.  (By the way, you can read all bout this process in the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon!)  There is this pattern of dispensations (when prophets are preaching the gospel) and apostasies (when people reject the prophets and they're taken away for a time) all throughout the scriptures.  Thus, it is reasonable that God would call a prophet to "reveal his secrets" to us--He loves us just as much as any of His children, doesn't He?  And we certainly need divine help in these crazy times!  (See also Hugh B. Brown, "The Profile of a Prophet", Ensign, June 2006, 34–39)

We can have confidence in God's prophets because they hold His authority, the priesthood.  I've mentioned it before, but the priesthood is the power for prophets to definitively say "Thus saith the Lord".  It's the difference between getting pulled over by a county sheriff versus the ice cream man--one has the authority to write you a ticket and the other doesn't, no matter his good intentions (or his "Good Humor"). 

"Do you have any idea how fast you were goin'?"
I testify that God has always and will always lead us in the right direction through His servants, the prophets.  I testify that if we listen to the voices of the prophets, our lives will be blessed.  We will find our way back to Heavenly Father.  God has not left us alone--He really has called a prophet in these troubled times.  And for that I say "thank Thee, O God, for a prophet to guide us in these latter days!"

Much Love,
Elder Spendlove

For more on prophets, check out this talk and the related ones, from the leadership of the Church!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Just a Little FYI

Hey everyone!  I just wanted you to know that I'm going to be posting a poll soon that will ask what kinds of questions you've wondered about the LDS Church (or, if you're a member, that your friends have asked you).  I want to use my "FAQ Fridays" to answer your questions, not just what I think you want to know.  This blog really is for you (and your friends who aren't LDS)--I sure do want to know how I can help you better.  If you don't see a question on the poll you want to be answered, comment down here or message me on facebook. 

I hope you find this blog interesting and helpful!  Let me know if there's anything else you'd like me to do!

I just want you all to know that I know the message I have the opportunity of sharing each day is true.  That's why I'm a missionary.  That's why I'm dedicating two years of my life to share it with others (not the least of which is you!).  I love the truth and the light and the peace the gospel brings.  I'm also adding a couple links where you can request missionaries to visit you and order a free copy of the Book of Mormon.

Much Love,
Elder Spendlove

Friday, November 5, 2010

FAQ Fridays: Do Mormons Worship Joseph Smith?

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we gratefully sing the hymn, "Praise to the Man", which goes, in part:

Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!
Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer.
Blessed to open the last dispensation [or period of time when the gospel is upon the earth]
Kings shall extol him, and nations revere.

Joseph Smith: Prophet of God

Obviously there is no lack of gratitude among the latter-day Saints for this wonderful, selfless man.  But to many not of our faith, he is a mysterious figure, whose life and name have been "had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds,...tongues,...and people" (Joseph Smith--History 1:33).  Many believe we worship him, or that he is some kind of savior to us.  Others believe we follow blindly the account of his communion with God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.  Who is Joseph Smith, and why is he so important to us?

Joseph Smith was, and is, the prophet through whom God restored the priesthood (the authority to act in God's name--see Matthew 16:19 and Acts 8:14-24) and the Church of Jesus Christ in these last days before Jesus Christ comes again.  He was a man with a special mission from God to restore and share plain and precious truths about Jesus Christ's teachings.  He was led to an ancient record of scripture written by believers in Christ, prophets even, who lived in the ancient Americas--we now have this precious record as The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.  He was called upon to bear incredible sorrow and eventually give his life as a martyr.  He is no savior to us--that title alone belongs to Him whose church Joseph was called to restore, Jesus Christ.  He is no fanatical or insurrectionist--truly he lived a Christlike and Christ-devoted life.

I know, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that Joseph Smith was in fact a prophet, called like any prophet has ever been called--by God Himself.  Read the Book of Mormon, which is the "good fruit" (Matthew 7) of the Prophet.  Ask God if it is true and if Joseph really was His prophet.  I know God will tell you too!  I add my voice of gratitude as I sing: "praise to the man!" 

Much Love,
Elder Spendlove

Here's the mormon.org page that also answers this question. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Gospel Blesses MY Family

If you've been watching my facebook page, you'll see that I've linked a few family-oriented TV commercials produced by our Church.  I love watching these, especially the ones where the kids are pretending to be pirates or space explorers or something, because they remind me of my own childhood, filled with laughter, adventure, and plenty of swashbuckling action!

 My brothers and I would always run off into the woods near our house in south Texas, looking for and certainly finding adventure around every corner.  I'm sure my mom had a fit a couple times when we came home muddy or with our jeans torn or with some sort of fun-induced injury; to us it was more than just playtime, it was life or death!  We had a chance we had to become someone else--whether that be a pirate, a wizard, Indiana Jones, or just superhuman forms of ourselves (I always liked to have super strength...I guess it just seemed like the coolest power to have).  I don't think I will ever forget that feeling of playing with my brothers (I'm in the middle of three boys, then there's a gap of 6 years and then follows my sister and youngest brother--you can imagine what three little boys might get into on an endless summer day!) and feeling like the whole world was at our fingertips. 

Heavenly Father understands that perfectly.  He knows how much joy and happiness can be found in our familial relationships.  That's why He created a plan for us, His children, to live forever with Him and with our families.  Because God restored the priesthood, or the power to act in God's name, upon the earth through Joseph Smith, our families don't have to be "til death do us part".  Our marriages and families can be "bound on Earth and bound in Heaven" (see Matthew 16:19).  The principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ will bless your family if you follow them.  They teach us to love and serve one another, to focus on the Savior's love and to radiate and reflect that back to those whom we love most (see also Mosiah 4:12-15 in the Book of Mormon, pp. 155-156)

Here is an official statement by the Church on the importance of the family.  I hope that you all continue to show love to your families and seek to improve your relationship with them and with the Savior.  You might ask your Mormon friends why they love their families so much and why they are so important to them.  You will find that the gospel of Jesus Christ has helped them cope with many challenges that now face families everywhere.

I am thankful for my family not just because of those endless summer days and countless sword fights atop various overly-dangerous dry riverbeds and dams;  I am thankful because they taught me how to love God and Jesus, how to serve and obey the commandments of God, and to prepare for raising my family on the principles of Jesus Christ's teachings.  Those things are what I really won't forget!  :)

My family circa 2006 

Much Love,
Elder Spendlove


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