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contention

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Back in the day….(I know that some of you automatically roll your eyes when you hear that.) Anyway, back when I was a kid, we used to have door-to-door salesmen come to our house. These days we still get a few illiterate salespeople that can’t read our “No Soliciting” sign, but not too often.

I know a lot of folks still make their living doing this, whether it be alarm systems, pest control, satellite dishes, or just selling something to “keep me off the streets.” When I was a kid, it was more of a grown-men, career type thing. I distinctly remember salesmen coming to the house, selling encyclopedias, cleaning solutions and kitchen knives.

My favorite were the vacuum salesmen. They would show up at the door with a vacuum in hand and ask to come in and give a demonstration. Once-in-a-while my parents would open the door and let them in.

The salesman would then extoll the virtues of the vacuum cleaner, and then offer to demonstrate its effectiveness. He would take a tube of dirt and dust and pour it onto the carpet, then turn on the vacuum and suck it back up. I am adding way too much detail for the point of this post, but hey, it is a fun memory.

One of the age-old techniques for door-to-door salesmen is to keep the conversation at the doorstep going as long as possible. Some aggressive salesmen will even resort to the “foot in the door” technique, where they would literally wedge their foot in the open doorway to prevent the potential customer from shutting the door. It is a pretty brash move, and if someone tried it here, they would get a sore foot and no sale.

Lately, it seems that nowadays I am more frequented by a different technique.  Several times a week I get phone calls at work from an “appointment setter.” It consists of a phone call from someone I don’t know, who excitedly tells me that “One of our representatives will be in YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD and would like to meet with you to show you this exiting new offer, yada, yada, yada.”  Yeah. In all my years of business, I have never made an appointment like this, but you can’t fault them for trying.

The goal: Get a foot in the door – either figuratively or literally. Once you have that, you have a chance to make the sale. (If you want to read more about the foot-in-the-door, and the related “successive approximations” concepts, click here.)

Reading the Book of Mormon is always fascinating because different things jump out to me at different times.  I have read the story of Alma the Younger and his rebel ways a bunch of times. The most recent time through, something new caught my eye. It was when Alma Jr. was in full-blown “destroy the church” mode. A verse in Mosiah explains how he went about it.

“And he (Alma Jr.) became a great hinderment to the prosperity of the church of God; stealing away the hearts of the people; causing much dissension among the people; giving a chance for the enemy of God to exercise his power over them.” (Mosiah 27:9)

How did Alma go about his self-appointed job? By “causing much dissension among the people.” The result: “Giving a chance for the enemy of God to exercise his power over them.”

Alma the Younger was essentially functioning as Satan’s appointment setter. He would get the people stirred up just enough that the door would be opened a crack, and his boss could come in and do some real damage.

Jesus Christ taught that Satan is the “Father of Contention.” “For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.” (3 Nephi 11:29)

I can’t help but wonder how often we crack open doors just enough to give “a chance” for the “enemy of God to exercise power” over others.

There is no doubt in my mind that the constant dissension among the people of our Nation has opened a doorway for Satan to exercise his power in remarkable ways. (I’m tempted to insert some sort of Ghostbusters analogy here, but I will resist.)

There is so much dissension. So much hate.

If we bring it down to the Church level, there are still those who make it their life mission to cause dissension within the ranks of the church – from both inside and outside. The result? Satan has his crack in the door, and he will exploit it.

I think sometimes we forget that Satan is a real person, with a real agenda to thwart God’s plan. President Kimball taught, “Regardless of who is getting the adversary’s special attention at any given time, he seeks to make all people “miserable like unto himself” (2 Ne. 2:27). Indeed, he seeks “the misery of all mankind” (2 Ne. 2:18). He is undeviating in his purposes and is clever and relentless in his pursuit of them.” (link)

He goes on to offer this very sobering view of Satan’s methods:

“The arch deceiver has studied every way possible to achieve his ends, using every tool, every device possible. He takes over, distorts, and changes and camouflages everything created for the good of man, … so he may take over their minds and pervert their bodies and claim them his.

He never sleeps—he is diligent and persevering. He analyzes carefully his problem and then moves forward diligently, methodically to reach that objective. He uses all five senses and man’s natural hunger and thirst to lead him away. He anticipates resistance and fortifies himself against it. He uses time and space and leisure. He is constant and persuasive and skillful. He uses such useful things as radio, television, the printed page, the airplane, and the car to distort and damage. He uses the gregariousness of man, his loneliness, his every need to lead him astray. He does his work at the most propitious time in the most impressive places with the most influential people. He overlooks nothing that will deceive and distort and prostitute. He uses money, power, force. He entices man and attacks at his weakest spot. He takes the good and creates ugliness. … He uses every teaching art to subvert man.

The adversary is subtle. He is cunning. He knows that he cannot induce good men and women to do major evils immediately, so he moves slyly, whispering half-truths until he has his intended captives following him.” (link)

Yikes. All he needs to do is get that foot in the door, and Satan will start pounding on us – as a nation, as a church, as families, or individuals. The crack in that door? Contention. A chance is all he needs.

While I believe we underestimate Satan’s relentlessness and efficacy, I also think we downplay the reality of his host of helpers. We tend not to look at people sowing dissension and think: “Hey, that guy is trying to open the door for the devil!” First, it sounds rude, and judgmental, and, second, the person doing it might not even be aware of the link.

But that doesn’t make it any less true.

Firing off hateful tweets, heated arguments with people in person and online, getting mad at the bishop, yelling at my kids, ALL of these things are sowing the seeds of dissension and contention – effectively putting me on the same team as the pre-repentant Alma the Younger.

Strong passions, sound reasons and even moral outrage are not valid reasons to bring contention into the mix. The reason? As soon we do, the Spirit of the Lord is grieved, and leaves. Now we find ourselves arguing without the Lord’s support. Richard G. Scott said in quite a unique way:

“The inspiring influence of the Holy Spirit can be overcome or masked by strong emotions, such as anger, hate, passion, fear, or pride. When such influences are present, it is like trying to savor the delicate flavor of a grape, while eating a jalapeño pepper. Both flavors are present, but one overpowers the other. In like manner, strong emotions overcome the delicate promptings of the Holy Spirit.” (Link to Conference talk here.)

We need to learn how to disagree and fight for what is right and true without cracking the door for Satan. Hateful tweets, riots, arguments, insults, and accusations are not that way. We need to get better at listening and reasoning together so that we can enlighten with the help of the Spirit.

“And now come, saith the Lord, by the Spirit, unto the elders of his church, and let us reason together, that ye may understand.” (D&C 50:10)

We need to get better at this – as a nation, as a church and as family members. Satan roots for us to insert contention into our actions and relationships. It is how he gets his foot in the door. It is a simple delineator as to which side we are on: If we are contentious, we are on Team Satan.

Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
Now is the time to show.
We ask it fearlessly:
Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
We wage no common war,
Cope with no common foe.
The enemy’s awake;
Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who? (link)
Related post: Heat & Light

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target engagement

The MMM family is going to have another wedding! Yes, Alex, (FOML3) has found himself a winner. Her name is Madi, and she is a catch.

About 3.5 years ago, FOML2 got engaged. Back then I was in the land of anonymity, so I didn’t use anyone’s names. But a short time after that engagement was made official, I sat Taylor and his future wife Mallory down at the kitchen table and had a visit with them to give them some observations. (“Observations” was code for the speech that I had written in my head over the previous few days.) I had a captive audience, and it was my kitchen table…

I decided to re-post a modified version of that speech for several reasons:

1) Alex and Madi can read it. (because all engaged people become kind of stupid absent-minded, and they need it, too.)
2) I have 3 more unmarried kids, and this way I can refer back to it, as needed.
3) Many of you, or your kids, might need it one day.

So, here’s the speech…

You know we are thrilled that you two are getting married. We could not be happier that you found each other, that you are so right for each other. We are happy that you both have prepared, and are worthy, to get married in the temple. We are incredibly proud of you, and we know that Madi’s parents are too. We are confident that your Heavenly Father is pleased as well.

However…not everyone is pleased. The adversary is not. He hates both of you. He hates the fact that you are on the verge of creating a new eternal family unit. He hates you – he hates eternal families – and he hates the temple. Effective now, you both have targets on your backs, and he will do everything in his power to stop this from happening. He does not want you to enter the temple to be sealed together – it goes against everything he stands for.

• His first line of attack will be to destroy.

If he can provoke you into doing something that will keep you out of the temple, he will. He would love for you to give in to temptation – to sacrifice your purity, so when the time comes to get that recommend to enter the temple, you would be judged as unworthy. He would love that, because he knows that many engagements cannot survive the damage of immorality. He would like to see you “Spiritually Stupid” so that the decisions you make during this time are bad ones.

So be smart. Don’t put yourselves in situations where you might slip.  I know you are both smart, and strong – but the two of you aren’t bulletproof. We love and trust you, but that’s the reality of it.

• The second line of attack will be to diminish the experience for you. If the adversary is unsuccessful in getting you to blow this thing up, he will try and make it a less-than-wonderful experience. Remember, the actual SEALING ceremony will only be a few minutes long. There are no flowers, decorations, and only one color – white.  Everything and anything beyond that you are planning and preparing for is not your wedding. It is bonus stuff. A really fancy party – but not a wedding.

If the adversary can get you to put a huge amount of time, energy, money and focus on all of the extra stuff, he can diminish the singular importance of the actual wedding. If he can’t stop it, he will do what he can to make it seems insignificant – and society and culture – inside and outside the church – are more than happy to help him. Remember, what you will be taking away from the events surrounding your wedding will be photos, memories, and relationships. (And maybe, just maybe, a box of wedding stuff that could hypothetically sit in your garage for 30 years without ever being opened. Hypothetically speaking, or course.)

The memories you create now and up through your wedding day will be immortalized in your memory and personal history. Satan would really like those memories to be bad, and forever taint your temple experience. And the most effective way of doing that would be to stir up contention.  What better way to diminish the glory of your wedding than to taint the memory with anger, disagreement, contention and tears.

Fifty years from now, do you want to look back at your wedding and remember that you fought with each other about what you are going to wear, or what food to serve, or who to invite? Protect your relationships during this time. Engaged couples are notorious for being INCREDIBLY self-centered. (I know, because I was there once.) Fight this instinct.

Contention with each other, or with your families, can bleed into the temple, and deny the Holy Spirit of Promise from sealing that sacred ordinance. If you are fighting with your mom or your dad, or each other, it will diminish, and cheapen what you experience the next few months, the adversary can count that a partial victory – and he’ll gladly take it. Don’t just pick your battles wisely. Avoid them at all costs. Remember, the colors, the flowers, the clothes, the food, the music, the invitations, etc., are NOT the wedding. The wedding can, and should be, a short, pure, spirit-filled, sacred event. All the additonal stuff is merely stuff – a party – and it can either enhance the experience, or diminish it. Your choice.

Speech is over. Thank you for humoring an old man.  We love you, and are your biggest fans. We will do our best to not diminish your experience. We want it to be a spiritual, and joyful day – the best day of your life – not just this life, but your eternities as well.

Love,
Dad

And the happy couple, Alex and Madi:
Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 7.28.06 AM

50

Note:  I am getting lots of requests to comment on the latest Church policy announcement (That was leaked prematurely). I hadn’t planned on it, but decided, at my EC’s encouragement (pressure), to chime in.  I’ll respond with some thoughts and with a story that, until now, I thought everyone was familiar with -I was wrong. Here you go:

Two Wolves

There is a story told of an old Cherokee teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One is evil: he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good: he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”  (Link)

Every so often the Church comes out with a new policy, directive, announcement, etc. that causes a stir. Today’s announcement regarding the standing of same-sex couples and their children is no exception. There is much angst, doubt, and struggle in the hearts of many members.

And it will happen again.  And again. As the gulf between the Church and the World widens, there will necessarily be more and more days like today.

 

The question – which I consider MUCH more important that the issues at hand is this:

Which wolf will we feed?

The Wolf of Faith?

or the Wolf of Doubt?

The Wolf of Doubt quickly turns to anger, indignation, public acrimony and discussion. He takes offense, and is quick to share it.  He searches for allies and information to validate his views. He turns to sources that are not enlightened, are not sanctioned by God. He often doesn’t even bother to read the very thing that he is so upset about. He will look to support his doubt…

And he will find it. There are many who are more than happy to feed the Wolf of Doubt.

The Wolf of Faith is quick to restrain his reaction. He turns to sources he knows are endorsed by God. He reads the actual policy – instead of seizing on the exploitive headlines in the media. He is not afraid to drop to his knees and seek truth from God through the Spirit before he makes up his mind – and especially before he speaks out. He will look to find that which will support his faith…

And he will find it.

Which wolf are you?

Do you desire understanding, enlightenment, inspiration and truth?

Or do you desire contention, justification and doubt?

You can find either.

And you can feed at the trough…or drink at the fountain.

MMM-logo-small

 

LATE ADDITION:  Here is what a lot of us have been waiting for.  Elder Christofferson did a remarkable interview today that explained the policy changes and all that was involved. This is “going to the source.”  http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/handbook-changes-same-sex-marriages-elder-christofferson

(I had to take the video down, because my ISP got ad at me for hogging the CPU.  Go to the link instead.)

 

Here is a great article that helps explain things in more detail for Wolves looking for faith.

http://blog.fairmormon.org/2015/11/06/a-look-at-the-churchs-new-policy-on-children-of-gay-couples/

Here is a quote by President Boyd K. Packer as well:

“The family is safe within the church. We are not in doubt as to the course we must follow. It was given in the beginning, and guidance from on high is renewed as need may be. As we continue on our course, these things will follow as night the day: The distance between the church and the world set on a course which we cannot follow will steadily increase. Some will fall away into apostasy, break their covenants, and replace the plan of redemption with their own rules.”  (Link)