Sunday, April 29, 2012

Loss, love and learning: Elder Richard G. Scott

In 1995, Elder Richard G. Scott, a member of the quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, lost his wife to cancer. In the fourteen years since that time, Elder Scott has, on occasion, spoken of this loss and of his experiences coping with it. Below is one such example, an excerpt from a Mormon Conversations interview by Sheri Dew with Elder Scott and his daughter, Linda.

Sheri Dew: Elder Scott, you'd been married, I think, 42 years when Sister Scott passed away. You were then a member of the Twelve. I'm wondering a couple of things associated with that very tender experience. The first is, are there things that you would feel comfortable sharing with us about what you learned in this quite remarkable experience, remarkably difficult experience, of having your wife proceed you in death and ... [second,] you've chosen not to remarry, are there things that you would feel comfortable sharing with us about that?  

Elder Scott: First of all, Sheri, I didn't lose her; she's on the other side of the veil. We've been sealed in that holy ordinance of the temple and we'll be together forever. And at critical times in my life when I need help, I can feel impressions come through the veil in such a way that I just [say] "thank you Janene." So there isn't that loss. The second is, when you get it right the first time, you don't want to mess it up with a second time. We are so close and love each other so very much that I don't have any feeling of need to remarry. I recognize that for some men, there is a very strong support they require from a wife and so they remarry, and I don't question that for them. Janene and I prepared each other in all the ways we could think of for being able to survive well when one of us passed through the veil. I wish she hadn't been the first one, but that's the way it worked out.  

Sheri Dew: Linda, this is such a tender topic. And I love what you said Elder Scott ... you didn't lose her, that's absolutely true. We speak all the time of loss, of feeling a sense of loss because the reality is, and now talking to you Linda, she's not here right now at the moment where you can pick up the phone and talk to her. [A]re there things that you learned - I'm sure there are things you've learned - that you would feel appropriate to share about life and about the Lord and anything else in the fact that your mother has already stepped across the veil.

 Linda Scott: Well, I learned a lot about why she's needed on the other side of the veil. It was hard for me to understand why the Lord didn't think that Dad needed he here. And it taught me of the importance of the things that happen on the other side of the veil and it taught me to see the bigger picture. It also taught me about faith. I learned a great deal about faith. And there were several times when ... for example, there was one when I came to visit and help mom after she had a cancer treatment and we were there at the home and she was very weak and the nurse was not able to put in the I.V. and Dad came and gave her a blessing and then he had to leave to go to the MTC for an assignment. And it was snowing hard outside and I just couldn't understand that; I couldn't understand how he could leave. And it just ... it taught me faith in the priesthood and how he just knew that things would be OK, and they were.  

Sheri Dew: Thank you. Wonderful.

Elder Scott, I want to play an excerpt, a brief excerpt, where you had some things to say about the passing of you're wife:
Fourteen years ago the Lord took my wife beyond the veil. I love her with all my heart, but I have never complained because I know it was His will. I have never asked why but rather what is it that He wants me to learn from this experience. I believe that is a good way to face the unpleasant things in our lives, not complaining but thanking the Lord for the trust He places in us when He gives us the opportunity to overcome difficulties.
What I am trying to teach is that when we keep the temple covenants we have made and when we live righteously in order to maintain the blessings promised by those ordinances, then come what may, we have no reason to worry or to feel despondent.
Sheri Dew: My question, Elder Scott is this: That statement is a remarkable statement of faith ... filled with faith. Do you have counsel for those who are listening and who may have just suffered something devastating in their lives or something that they don't understand or something that has even made them wonder if the Lord knows who they are. Do you have some counsel for them about how you develop the kind of faith that this passage demonstrates?  

Elder Scott: I think just understanding the message of the Restoration that's come through the Prophet Joseph Smith and evidence that there is a Father in Heaven who loves us, a Savior who was willing to lay his life down for us, who's Atonement has made it possible for us to resolve all of the difficult challenges in our lives. When we have that overall understanding of our circumstances here on earth, it is not hard to exercise faith that in times of trial or challenge we'll be supported by a loving Heavenly Father and aided by a Savior who was willing to lay his life down for our benefit.  

Sheri Dew: Thank you.

Linda, this statement from you father and his explanation leads me to want to slip in one more question before we take a little break. What have you learned from your dad and what have you learned about him since your mother passed away?  

Linda Scott: I've learned that even though you have trials and unexpected things that come up in life, the responsibilities are still there, your covenants are still there, the things that we do every day are still there. And you can't put them aside. You just have to keep going and do the best that you can and in time, things get better. But you can't put those responsibilities aside.  

Sheri Dew: And do you see that affecting the way you make decisions and the way that you feel about your life?  

Linda Scott: Yeah, and as an adult now, I might not have seen that right then, but I look back now and think maybe with my little problems, I can't put them aside. I need to move on and take care of responsibilities even though things are tough.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Well done, DOJ

Although not always a fan of lawsuits pursued on a personal level (I believe that, although necessary in some cases, such lawsuits more often than not ruin lives), I can't help but throw out some kudos to the Department of Justice which recently brought suit against Apple and five major book publishers (including Penguin, Harper Collins and Simon and Schuster) for "collud[ing] to increase the price of ebooks," a move which allegedly "cost consumers 'tens of millions of dollars.'" Apparently, these nogoodniks, including Steve Jobs, "worked together to eliminate competition among stores selling ebooks" by "rais[ing] the price of best-selling titles $2 to $5 each by introducing, at the same time Apple launched its iPad tablet, an “agency” business model in which publishers set retail prices." Apparently, Apple also insisted on "a 'most favoured nation' clause in which publishers agreed not to sell on cheaper terms elsewhere – while giving Apple a 30% commission on every sale – forc[ing] other retailers [including Kindle and Barnes & Noble] to adopt the same terms (see Financial Times story here).

As an American with fiery trust-busting fervor flowing throw my veins, the story rings mightily of injustice. But as one of those customers bilked out of extra cash by such collusion, I hear that ring even more clearly.

See, in the good ol' days, Amazon set the price for its eBooks at $9.99 - a veritable steal of a deal for avid bibliophiles like me. But then the price of eBooks began to increase until the point where, in some cases, it now costs more to buy an electronic copy of a book than the bound volume.

And so I applaud this suit most heartily, particularly as it seems to be bearing fruit (three of the publishers have already settled, putting strong pressure on Apple and the remaining publishers to do the same).

Under the terms of the settlement, it seems that the DOJ (and several states which have also sued Apple and the book publishers) will get their own (monetary) pound of flesh out of the baddies; but the best part is that, as part of the settlement, the DOJ is requiring that the publishers "let retailers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble, set their own prices for ebooks."

Booyah. I can only hope that the days of the $9.99 novel will return ... and I can again enjoy the full might of Kindle's glory on the (comparative) cheap.

Monday, April 9, 2012

True Love

The simple example shown by my parents during the difficult days of my mother's illness and death have taught me more about the nature (and celestial possibilities) of human love than all the words that have been spoken, lessons that have been given or books that have been written on the subject:

Thank you both for showing me what I can someday have.

I love you, Mom, now and forever.

It was good for us to be here ...

General Conference (of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterd-day Saints), which is held semi-annually in October and April, has long been among my favorite times of year. What could be better than to be taught the words of God as delivered by His chosen and ordained servants on the earth (and then to have the verity of those words confirmed through the power of the Holy Spirit)?

Answer: Not much.

General Conference is a time to learn doctrine* and to reset our lives as we strive to be ever more honest, selfless, patient, kind and loving (which, in this world, seems to become more difficult by the day). Although touched by many impressions and thoughts (both prompted by, and independent of, the words spoken), I want to share some quotes from the April 2012 sessions of Conference that particularly struck me:

"May each of us resolve anew to live so that we are worthy sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. May we continue to oppose evil wherever it is found." - President Thomas S. Monson
"The purpose of the Church is to help us live the Gospel." - Elder Donald L. Hallstrom
"'Love of God is the root of all virtue, of all goodness, of all strength of character, of all fidelity to do right.'" - Elder Paul E. Koelliker (quoting President Gordon B. Hinckley)
"Just as the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ is at the center of the plan of salvation, we followers of Christ must make our own sacrifices to prepare for the destiny that plan provides for us." - Elder Dallin H. Oaks
"I have visited with a woman who received the miracle of sufficient strength to endure unimaginable losses with just the simple capacity to repeat endlessly the words 'I know that my Redeemer lives.'" - President Henry B. Eyering
"So be kind, and be grateful that God is kind. It is a happy way to live." - Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
"We consume such precious emotional and spiritual capital clinging tenaciously to the memory of a discordant note we struck in a childhood piano recital, or something a spouse said or did 20 years ago that we are determined to hold over his or her head for another 20, or an incident in Church history that proved no more or less than that mortals will always struggle to measure up to the immortal hopes placed before them. Even if one of those grievances did not originate with you, it can end with you. - Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
"The purpose of both temporal and spiritual self-reliance is to get ourselves on higher ground so that we can lift others in need." - Elder Robert D. Hales
"In the kingdom of God there are no second-class citizens." - Elder David S. Baxter
"Although you may at times have asked, why me? it is through the hardships of life that we grow toward godhood as our character is shaped in the crucible of affliction, as the events of life take place while God respects the agency of man. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell commented, we cannot do all the sums or make it all add up because 'we do not have all the numbers.'" - Elder David S. Baxter
"[O]ur daily question must be, 'Do my actions place me in the Lord’s or in the enemy’s territory?'" - Elder Ulisses Soares
"The essential doctrine of agency requires that a testimony of the restored gospel be based on faith rather than just external or scientific proof. Obsessive focus on things not yet fully revealed, such as how the virgin birth or the Resurrection of the Savior could have occurred or exactly how Joseph Smith translated our scriptures, will not be efficacious or yield spiritual progress. These are matters of faith. Ultimately, Moroni’s counsel to read and ponder and then ask God in all sincerity of heart, with real intent, to confirm scriptural truths by the witness of the Spirit is the answer." - Elder Quentin L. Cook
"Humility is a fertile soil where spirituality grows and produces the fruit of inspiration to know what to do." - Elder Richard G. Scott
Nothing about the priesthood is self-centered. The priesthood always is used to serve, to bless, and to strengthen other people." - Elder David A. Bednar
Ordination confers authority, but righteousness is required to act with power as we strive to lift souls, to teach and testify, to bless and counsel, and to advance the work of salvation." - Elder David A. Bednar
"During World War II approximately 500 U.S. soldiers and supporting locals were held captive in a prison camp. Because of the suffering and concern for their safety, a volunteer force of approximately 100 U.S. soldiers was selected to rescue these prisoners. After the volunteers were assembled, the commanding officer instructed them something like this: “This evening you men meet with your religious leaders, you kneel down, and you swear to God that as long as you have a single breath of life, you will not let one of these men suffer one more moment.” ... Should we be less valiant in our efforts to rescue those who could suffer spiritual and eternal consequences? Should we make less of a commitment to the Lord?" - Bishop Richard C. Edgely
"Dear young men of the Church, let me ask you a question that I hope you will carry in your heart for the rest of your life. What greater power can you acquire on earth than the priesthood of God? What power could possibly be greater than the capacity to assist our Heavenly Father in changing the lives of your fellowmen, to help them along the pathway of eternal happiness by being cleansed of sin and wrongdoing?" - Brother Adrián Ochoa
"We must not allow the doctrines of the priesthood to lie dormant in our hearts and unapplied in our lives. If there is a marriage or family in need of rescue—perhaps even our own—let’s not just wait and see. Rather, let us thank God for the plan of happiness that includes faith, repentance, forgiveness, and new beginnings. Applying priesthood doctrine will qualify us as husbands, as fathers, as sons who understand the why of the priesthood and its power to recapture and secure the beauty and holiness of eternal families." - President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
"The Holy Spirit of Promise, through our obedience and sacrifice, must seal our temple covenants in order to be realized in the world to come." - President Henry B. Eyering

"At times the wisdom of God appears as being foolish or just too difficult, but one of the greatest and most valuable lessons we can learn in mortality is that when God speaks and a man obeys, that man will always be right." - President Thomas S. Monson

"If we are not worthy, it is possible to lose the power of the priesthood; and if we lose it, we have lost the essence of exaltation. Let us be worthy to serve." - President Thomas S. Monson

"This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following: Stop it!" - President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

"Be we reminded that a perfect body is not required to achieve one’s divine destiny. In fact, some of the sweetest spirits are housed in frail or imperfect bodies. Great spiritual strength is often developed by people with physical challenges, precisely because they are so challenged." - Elder Russel M. Nelson

"If you come upon a person who is drowning, would you ask if they need help—or would it be better to just jump in and save them from the deepening waters? The offer, while well meaning and often given, 'Let me know if I can help' is really no help at all." - Elder Ronald A. Rasband

"We have been taught that “it is as obligatory upon a woman to draw into her life the virtues that are fostered by the Relief Society as it is an obligation for the men to build into their lives the patterns of character fostered by the priesthood.'" - Sister Julie B. Beck (quoting Elder Boyd K. Packer)

"We value scholarship that enhances understanding, but in the Church today, just as anciently, establishing the doctrine of Christ or correcting doctrinal deviations is a matter of divine revelation to those the Lord endows with apostolic authority." - Elder D. Todd Christofferson

"When compared to eternal verities, most of the questions and concerns of daily living are really rather trivial. What should we have for dinner? What color should we paint the living room? Should we sign Johnny up for soccer? These questions and countless others like them lose their significance when times of crisis arise, when loved ones are hurt or injured, when sickness enters the house of good health, when life’s candle dims and darkness threatens." - President Thomas S. Monson

"His Atonement and Resurrection provide all of us an escape from physical death and, if we repent, an escape from spiritual death, bringing with it the blessings of eternal life." - Elder L. Tom Perry

"'There can be no genuine happiness separate and apart from the home. … There is no happiness without service, and there is no service greater than that which converts the home into a divine institution, and which promotes and preserves family life. … The home is what needs reforming'" - Elder M. Russell Ballard (quoting President Joseph F. Smith)

"Brothers and sisters, the most important cause of our lifetime is our families. If we will devote ourselves to this cause, we will improve every other aspect of our lives and will become, as a people and as a church, an example and a beacon for all peoples of the earth." - Elder M. Russell Ballard

"[A]nytime we try to compel someone to righteousness who can and should be exercising his or her own moral agency, we are acting unrighteously." - Elder Larry Y. Wilson

"My dear brothers and sisters, we can build up His Church and see real growth as we work to bring the blessings of the gospel to our family and to those we love." - Elder David F. Evans

"The sacred cannot be selectively surrendered. Those who choose to abandon even one sacred thing will have their minds darkened (see D&C 84:54), and unless they repent, the light they have shall be taken from them (see D&C 1:33). Unanchored by the sacred, they will find themselves morally adrift on a secular sea. In contrast, those who hold sacred things sacred receive promises: 'That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day' (D&C 50:24)." - Elder Paul B. Pieper

"Being a disciple [of Christ] in these days of destiny will be a badge of honor throughout the eternities." - Elder Neal L. Anderson

"Discipleship is believing Him in seasons of peace and believing Him in seasons of difficulty, when our pain and fear are calmed only by the conviction that He loves us and keeps His promises." - Elder Neal L. Anderson

"If there are disagreements or contentions among you, I urge you to settle them now." - President Thomas S. Monson

* Note: I tend to disagree with commentators, such as Matthew Bowman who suggest that the doctrines of the Church are murky, muddied and shifting (e.g., "[t]here is a great deal which Mormons might believe; there is very little that they must believe.")

Although there are many things that we may never fully know or understand in this life (e.g., why the Lord permitted, and in some cases required, the practice of polygamy among the early saints or why the Lord denied the priesthood to black Africans and their descendents prior to 1978), it is not at all difficult to discover the saving doctrines of the Gospel by, for instance, studying the revealed word of God contained in the holy scriptures and as delivered by His servants in General Conference. The same cannot be said with respect to the exact location of Kolob or whether Adam had a belly button.

We have been promised that, in the Lord's own due time, all truth (religious and scientific) will be revealed and we will cease to "see through a glass, darkly." I look forward to that day with all my heart because, although I have long since overcome my doubts about the truthfulness of the Gospel of Christ as restored to the earth, I have about a million questions. Nevertheless, until that glorious day of promise comes, I know what I'm going to spend my (limited) time studying.