Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Two Singers I admire: Bono and David Archuleta

In the last week, I’ve had the chance to hear about two singers and to think about what I admire in both of them.  It’s a similar list.  One of them is young, some would argue, at the beginning of his career.  The other has had a long and celebrated career.  The two are David Archuleta and Bono.

As I start this blog post, I have to set up the disclaimer.  I usually don’t like admiring other humans. Too often, we set people up as heroes, and then we’re upset when they let us down. On the other hand, I think we should celebrate goodness and righteousness whenever we see it. So, let me say that I don’t know either of these people personally. I have no idea what they’re really like. I don’t know what their struggles have been, other than what I’ve read. I don’t even like every song they’ve sung.

But they have both made some choices in their lives that I find admirable, and I want to point those out.

The first event I heard about was David Archuleta’s return from his mission. I was impressed by this. Here, he’s got a growing recording and performing career, and he sets it aside to serve his fellow humans in relative obscurity in a far-away country. If his mission was anything like mine, or anything like anyone else’s, he probably had a lot of struggles, disappointments, joys, and personal triumphs. I don’t know how well he got along with his companions, or how well they got along with him, but I’m sure they all grew in the process.

Here’s what I most admire him for: he went, he served, and he came home honorably. There have been many others who have had the opportunity and have not done those three things. Others have felt that their fame would interfere with missionary work. I just admire that he made the choice to set it all aside.

The other thing was an interview Bono did with Jim Daly of Focus on the Family. In the course of the interview, Bono, who is by all accounts now, a worldwide superstar, bore his personal witness of Jesus as the Son of God, and talked knowledgeably about the scriptures. In addition to being in the band, he’s worked tirelessly in support of AIDS-ravaged and poverty-stricken Africa. He’s worked with politicians on the right and the left all across the world looking for ways to facilitate funding and treatments.

Again, I don’t know him. I’ve never met him. I don’t know his flaws or his strengths.

I don’t know the hearts or minds of either of these two great voices. So, I will admire and try to emulate some of their great choices, and I will use those choices as examples to teach my family.



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Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including MarkHansenMusic.com and his Dutch Oven blog.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

The Grass and The Willow

A Fable For Our Times

So, the story goes that there was a big, tall, full willow tree atop a small rise, surrounded by a grassy meadow.  It had been there for years.  Many who traveled the roads by the meadow would stop and rest in its shade before moving on.  They used the great tree as a landmark to know where to travel and how far they had come.  It seemed like it had always been there and always would.  It was fixed in place, immovable.  The idea that it had once been a weak little sapling was long forgotten.

Below it the grass also grew tall, but not so much as the tree, obviously.  As the breezes and winds blew the grass would sway and swing, bending to the slightest shift and motion in the air.

Not the tree, of course.  Oh, the leaves might swish a little, but the tree was strong against even harsher winds.  It stayed, sturdy and tall.

Until one night a storm arose like no other before it. The winds and the rains hammered the hilltop, whipping the grass and the tree in its frenzy.  Wave after wave of harsh force smashed against them.  The tree strained to hold together as branches snapped and tumbled.  The tree held on with all its might, but finally, its shallow roots were unable to stand against the force of the wind, and with a loud crackling, it toppled over, smashing to the ground.

In the morning, the winds were again calm and the sun rose, drying the raindrops off the dying tree and the grassy meadow.  The grasses rose up and again danced and swayed in the breeze.  Their roots were deep and intertwined, and their blades flexible to move with the winds but still remain in place, still growing, still alive.

OK

So, I was reading yesterday an old response to Jerald and Sandra Tanner’s many anti-Mormon and anti-Joseph Smith books, and I started to see a trend. The more I read, the more I realized that the reason many good, faithful church members fall to anti-mormon propaganda is, in fact, our own fault, culturally.  We cling so rigidly, dogmatically to details that we think are facts, when those “facts” are, in fact, not certain.  Then, when those “facts” are challenged, our roots don’t go deep enough and so, aren’t strong enough to adapt and flow with those winds, and we fall.  Maybe our roots aren’t intertwined enough with others, strengthening each other, and so, we fall.

For example:  Detail Dogma might say that the Book of Abraham was the literal translation of the exact writing on the scrolls that Joseph Smith acquired. Some experts, cited by the Tanners, claim that the writings translate differently, and are not at all what Joseph wrote as the Book of Abraham.  But do we REALLY know what happened?  Do we REALLY know how it happened?  Is it not possible that Joseph Smith saw the texts and had a visionary experience that brought about the revelation of the Book of Abraham?  Is it possible that Joseph, with God’s eyes and inspiration, saw more in the drawings and text than others have?  What is the difference between “translation” and “revelation”.  There is so much that we don’t know.  So, should we rigidly cling to the superficial dogma, or should we sink our roots deeper to the underlying belief that the Book of Abraham is sacred scripture, however it arrived?

Another example: For years and years, we were told that the native american tribes were descendants of the Lamanites.  Some scientists did some studying and claimed that DNA testing disproved that theory, saying that the DNA of native americans was more asian.  We took a look at our beliefs and we said, essentially, that maybe there were other groups here, too, and they mixed.  Then, further DNA studies showed that it's not so cut and dried, scientifically, anyway.

We often want our histories and our stories to be clear, to be black and white, but life isn’t that way.  It’s often messy and our heroes aren’t always so heroic.  That doesn’t mean we stop believing in them, though.  We just have to be flexible.


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Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including MarkHansenMusic.com and his Dutch Oven blog.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

When Worlds Collide

A big topic in the news of late is the Arizona bill (passed by the legislature, and currently awaiting signing or veto by the governor) which would effectively allow anyone to refuse service to anyone for religious reasons.  There is a lot of legalese in the text of the law, but the basic upshot of it (and the source of the controversy) is that if there’s a same-sex wedding, and they want to hire someone to, say, bake the cake or take pictures, or perform the service, a person or company whose religous beliefs prohibit same-sex marriage would be allowed to turn down the opportunity.  It essentially says that if your church doesn’t like it, you’re not required to go along with it at your business.

On one side of this argument is the observation that this essentially sanctions discrimination, and undoes decades of civil rights legislation. On the other side of the argument, people are upset that businesses and business people are getting sued for “standing for their beliefs”.  They are frustrated that the government, and the laws it enforces, are requiring them to do things they believe are against their beliefs and principles.

It doesn’t even have to be against gays.  If someone’s Church doesn’t accept the possibility of life on other planets, according to this law, they shouldn’t be required to let aliens in their store.

Add to that this suit being brought against a Church in the UK, and the plot gets even a bit thicker.  The gay couple is suing because the Church won’t marry them.  Even though it’s happening “over there”, many in America are watching with interest because it could indicate a trend or precedent.

I’m a bit befuddled by it all.  I don’t want to legalize discrimination and prejudice, either, but I also support someone’s right to believe what they want and to act on that belief.

This is a situation where we may actually see the colliding of words, the immovable object being hit by the irresistible force. These two viewpoints are completely at odds with each other.  The gays want to get married, and there are many who don’t want to serve them.  Should they be forced to serve? Or should the gays be forced to look elsewhere for services?  What if the services aren’t available elsewhere, or if there are other factors in the situation?

This is why I think the LDS Church fought so strongly against same-sex marriage in California, Hawaii, and other states: the fear that, at some point, the Church would sued and forced to solemnize same-sex marriages in the temple.  I think that without that spectre looming over their heads, the Brethren of the Church would have been much more accepting of the concept.

Honestly, I’m not sure what the answer is.  But, it’s something that I’ll be watching very closely.



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Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including MarkHansenMusic.com and his Dutch Oven blog.

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