Friday, September 28, 2007

Loving Your Enemies

This one’s been kinda bouncing around my head some lately. It all stared when a friend of mine mentioned that he can love someone he doesn’t like. I started wondering about that. How can I love someone I don’t like? If someone irritates me, annoys me, bothers me, or even hates me, how can I love him?

First off, I’m not talking romantic love. That’s obvious. I irritate, pester, and annoy my wife on a regular basis, and yet she still claims to love me. Go figgure.

No, I’m talking about the charitable love I’m supposed to have for my fellow man. You know, that troublesome “second greatest commandment”? “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Matt. 22: 39

How do you do that?

Matthew shares some more advice from the Savior: Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” Matt. 5: 43-44

All of the Lord’s examples are things that you do for your enemies. Bless them, do good for them, pray for them. I read once a long time ago that to really love someone with a charitable love, then you have to truly want what’s best for them, regardless of how that impacts you, directly.

So, even if someone annoys me or even does me direct harm, I can still want what’s best for them. I can still work toward them getting that thing that’s best for them. Who knows, it might actually make it so they don’t annoy/hate/harm me anymore!

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Chapter and Verse, a Year Ago!

I was just jumping through my archives, as I do from time to time. I'll often play this "What was I doing a year ago?" game.

Well, it turns out that a year ago, I launched the introductory playtesting website for my scripture card game "Chapter and Verse". And then, I blogged about it!

A lot has changed in that last year. A lot of playtesting, a lot of development. Even though it's the same game, it's also drastically different. I mean, we're up to version 5.4 of the rules! And that's just the beta rules! Still, I think we've got a good game now, with a solid system, and cool-to-play cards (even if they don't look schnazzy yet).

Come on over and try it out. Let me know how it works for you

Mark Hansen

If Only...

Gary, in his blog at the One Man Mormon Blues Band, wrote a thought that really struck me. I’ve rolled it over and over in my head, and every way I look at it adds meaning.

“If people only understood how little it takes to please me, they would give me more.”

My thoughts:

  1. One of the reasons why I have a hard time giving toys and things to my kids is that it’s never enough. They’re thrilled to get it, but within a few minutes, that initial gift has led to another demand. Only one pack of Pokemon cards? Now I need a whole deck! Etc…
  2. Lately at work I’ve been lobbying and working for the guys on my team to get paid more. I’ve made some good progress. But rather than seeing it as good progress, I’ve been frustrated that getting final approval is taking so long.
  3. A long time ago, I read a book, called “Taran Wanderer”, by Lloyd Alexander. A young man takes a journey through a fantasy land and meets many interesting characters. One of the more fascinating of them was a guy who had nothing, but he felt lucky. Every little piece of discarded scrap he encountered was a treasure, and he found a use for it. He’d build it into his house, or adapt it to his farm, he even wore pieces of it as armor when the time came to protect his country.

Maybe if I didn’t demand so much, didn’t require so much, I’d get more.

Maybe if I was more grateful for the things I got, I’d get more.

Maybe if I recognized the things I did get, I’d realize that I already get a lot.

Mark Hansen

Thursday, September 20, 2007

More Thoughts on Callings

In music, especially in pop, and even more especially in jazz, there’s a particular kind of music notation that’s referred to as the “lead sheet”. It’s an abbreviated, annotated way of writing out a song that allows for lots of interpretation in the actual performance. Take a look at this example:

This is a slice of a lead sheet of one of my favorite jazz tunes, “Take Five”, made popular by Dave Brubeck. You’ll notice that there are not a lot of notes written here. If you’ve ever heard a recording of it, especially by a combo, you’ll know that there are a lot more notes actually being played. In fact, all that’s notated here with dots and stems and staves is the melody. A saxophone, for example, or a guitar would play those notes, while the band would fill in the rest. What would the band play? How would they know what to play? Well, those instructions are noted by the chord shorthand written above the melody. E flat minor, B flat minor seven, etc… These are the chords the rest of the band would fill out. The bass player, for example, would decide what actual notes he would play to fill out those chords. The pianist, or the guitarist would play those chords in a rhythm appropriate to the style.

The nice thing about a lead sheet is that it makes it very flexible. You don’t need to have separate sheet notations for each part. Let’s say your band has a saxophone player, a guitarist, a bassist and a drummer. They would each look at the exact same sheet of music, and be able to render their own parts. Let’s say all it’s just a piano player. She could look at this exact same sheet of music, and play the melody and fill out the chords with both hands.

The point is, that there is no one telling them what notes to play and when to play them. They read the basic instructions and they fill in the sound.

But wait, it gets worse. The notation of the melody is incorrect. Sort of. Notice that all of the first few notes of the melody are all notated similarly. They’re called “eighth-notes” and according to the sheet music, they should all be played equally long. But if you put this in front of a jazz player, he would know that you’re not supposed to play it that way. You’re supposed to “swing” it, which means the first note of every pair is supposed to be a little longer, and the second note is supposed to be a little shorter. Even though it’s written to be played “straight”, any musician should know you don’t really do that.

Here’s the problem: Using a lead sheet assumes that everyone reading it knows what they’re doing. If a beginning or intermediate player doesn’t know how to form those chords, or how to create a stylistic bass line underneath them, or how to swing the rhythm, then the lead sheet is useless to them, and they can’t participate in the band. They would need to have all of the notes written out for them in a technically correct way in order to be able to play the song.

So, now let’s look at it from a different perspective. Let’s say that we’re not looking at a lead sheet, but instead, we’re looking at the priesthood manual for a calling. How closely should one follow it? Is it a lead sheet or is it notated music? Are we all in the choir waiting for the bishop to raise his arm and conduct us, or are we in a combo, where everyone makes up their own part according to the rules and according to the lead sheet? Both are musical, and both are thrilling and inspiring to listen to.

To be honest, I’m not sure what the answer is!

Mark Hansen

Sunday, September 16, 2007

MoreThoughts on Consecration

Tonight, I was reading in an LDS site,, a series of quotes about the Law of Consecration. There were a lot that were cool, but a couple of them hit me the hardest.

One of the biggest misunderstandings of the Law of Consecration is that it’s another form of Communism. Take from the rich and give to the poor. From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs. This spells economic disaster, in the eyes of folks like Ayn Rand.

But recently, I read a forum posting where someone suggested that Consecration was just a religious version of Communism. I replied that I always thought that Communism was Satan’s failed attempt to mimic Consecration.

This first quote addresses the fears that in a Consecrated world, there would be too many slackers trying to live off the work and efforts of others. This is, of course, true of the current welfare state. It is also not true of Zion. If you have these kind of selfish people, then you don’t have Zion. And others that are critical and judgmental of the efforts of others are under equal condemnation. In Zion, you don’t have snarky backbiting. ALL must buy in and work, at whatever they are best suited for.

“The truths of the gospel, or things as they really are, confront not just the Korihors, but all of us. The lazy individual meets, head on, truths about the essentialness of work. The selfish and idle rich meet, head on, the truths about our need to share: they must also ponder the need to accept, one day, the law of consecration. The selfish and idle poor collide with the harsh truths about covetousness and envy.”

--Neal A. Maxwell, Things As They Really Are, p.8

A second quote also struck me:

“Consecration is a celestial law. This persecution and expulsion [from Missouri] never would have occurred had the people observed the law which the Lord required. That law was simply the law of consecration -- a law of the celestial kingdom. It was a law which, if observed, would have made the people the richest and wealthiest of any people in the world. There would not have been a poor Latter-day Saint in their midst. Every man would have had all he needed to make him happy and comfortable, so far as financial matters were concerned.”

--Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, p.163-164

I was fascinated by two aspects of this quote. One is that it was the disobedience of the saints which ultimately brought about the antagonism in Illinois. We frequently think that we were the innocent victims of Satan-induced hatred. Were we not willing to share? Were we too high and mighty?

I also find it very interesting that a prophet tells us that if we were to live in accordance with the Law, we would be the richest people in the world. I’m reminded of the time whe the Nephites had “everything in common”, and lived in total peace and harmony. Read the entire book of Fourth Nephi. In other words, the best way to get rich is to make sure that everyone else is rich, too. Or, in other other words, the best way to live is to make sure that others live well, too.

Mark Hansen

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Calling All Saints

There were some comments over at By Common Consent about the inspiration of callings, and the original post shed some interesting light. Over the years, I’ve thought a lot about how callings come about.

My initial contact with this issue also came during my mission. I got to thinking just how the President made the assignments. And I wondered about it. Were they all inspired? I know my President was a prayerful and spiritual man (although we disagreed a lot – a topic for another blog), and I know he sought inspiration when doing the companionship assignments. I also knew he often delegated the “first drafts” to his Assistants. Still, he explained to us that he often made changes and often felt inspiration when making the assignments.

Here’s some of my thoughts:

First of all, there are some missionaries (and later in life, ward members) that will dive into the work and commit to the building of Zion no matter where they are called and what they are called to do. My father is an excellent example of this. I remember when he was finally released, after years and years and years in stake leadership, from the stake presidency. He had no calling for about a month, and he felt completely lost. Then, he was called as a Sunday school teacher for the thirteen and fourteen year olds. He struggled with it, but tackled it with as much dedication as he had shown in the stake presidency for all that time.

From the mission point of view, the president knows he can send them anywhere, with anyone, and they will “bloom where they are planted”.

I have always tried to be that kind of saint, but have not always done so.

Second, there is the direct opposite. These are those ward members and missionaries that will not commit no matter what the call. In the mission field, we wondered why they had even come out in the first place.

Then, there are some times when the Lord knows that the needs of a particular calling and a particular missionary or ward member, in a particular place all match up. Most of the time, we humans don’t see this. We don’t get it, and we wonder why on earth that person got that calling.

So, in a lot of ways, I imagined that it’s the task of the Bishop or the Mission President to sense when there are people that need to be in a particular place and feel that inspiration. They need to put that in place, and then they need to fill the rest of the positions with other people. Then he can go to the Lord in prayer and get a confirmation of that.

And, in a ward, you also have the additional wrinkle that everyone should have a calling. Everyone should have a task to do. So, sometimes, especially in big wards, they have to invent things for people to do and places for them to be.

Also, I think there are times when the Lord confirms a wrong choice so that the Bishop or President can learn how to better read people. It’s like He says to the leader, “Well if you want him there, I’ll OK it, but you’ll have to deal with it when it all breaks down… It’s alright, though. It will be a good learning experience for you.”

So, is every calling inspired? Yes, in the sense that the overall plan is driven by inspiration. There have been many times when I could sense that my calling was more one of convenience, or at least expedience. I’m fine with that. Like I said, I think it’s best to try and be one of those “plug me in anywhere” saints.

I think it’s amazing how the Lord works with us as individuals. He lets us stand or fall wherever we are. And yet, somehow the church moves forward still...

Mark Hansen

Saturday, September 08, 2007

My Testimony

It’s very late.

My mind is fried.

But my thoughts, for some reason, are turning to my blog, and you, the kind folks that occasionally pop up here to read my rantings and my frustrations.

Like some of you, I read in the bloggosphere, and I read a lot of the bloggernacle. It’s funny, but even though MoBoy is one of the oldest blogs in the ‘nacle, I’ve always gotten this sense of being on the fringes, on the outside. Like I’m not really in the bloggernacle, but rather sitting on a blanket outside on the lawn, listening to the choir while I’m waiting to get into the conference.

Maybe if I were more controversial, or wrote more thought-provoking posts. Or maybe if I simply wrote MORE posts, and didn’t wait weeks in between, I might be more read and more accepted.

Oh, well…

One thing I’ve been feeling of late, as I read here and there in the blogs, is a real need to go on the record with my own personal testimony. It’s not often that I stand in F&T and bear my soul. I don’t know why. Still, there are times when I feel like I have to say it. It needs to come out of me, like a song does.

I know the church is true. I feel it every time I’m in the bench in sacrament meeting. My main calling right now is to lead the choir, and last week we were rehearsing “How Firm a Foundation” and I almost broke down crying as I heard my choir sing it. “That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!”

I don’t get to feel it so much when I’m teaching my primary class, but I think that has a lot more to do with the chaos a bunch of 5 year olds can bring to a room. Cute kids. Crazy, too…

Still, I know it’s true. I feel it when I read the Book of Mormon. I haven’t done that much lately because I decided to finally read the Old Testament all the way through (I’m in Joshua, now). But occasionally, I’ll still flip some screens on my Palm and read a bit of Alma, or Mosiah, one of my personal favorites (If you want to learn how to lead a country, how politics should work, read King Benjamin’s tower speech over and over).

I know it’s true. I feel it when I read the Doctrine and Covenants. Say what you will about Joseph Smith. I know he’s a flawed human like all of us, but I know his prophetic calling was (and still is) divine. Praise to the Man!

I know it’s true because I see it in my children’s eyes. They don’t know enough to think it through just yet. Their faith is way more pure than mine. I can still remember Brendon’s tears when, as a four-year-old, we told him he couldn’t go into the temple to meet Jesus. We had told him that it was the Lord’s House, so naturally, he thought he could just walk up, ring the doorbell and meet Him. Like Greg Simpson sings, “I need faith like that”.

Most of all, I know it’s true, because I’ve studied it and prayed about it. Over the years, I’ve gotten the confirmation that I’m on the right path. I may not be walking it quite as directly or as quickly as I should be, but I’m on it. And those are steps in the right direction.

I know it’s true.

Mark Hansen

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A Political Rant, with Religious Roots

Let me warn you in advance that what I’m about to rant about is not only long, but something I feel very passionate about. Its core is rooted in my family and our struggle to make our way in this world. I’m fully aware that what I’m saying flies in the face of some strongly held political beliefs by many of you, many of whom are my neighbors and friends.

But here we go anyway…

At a website of a local candidate for City Council, I found an ebook for free download. This was made available a few years back by Chris Cannon, a Utah Congressman. It’s called, “The Role of Government”, by Ezra Taft Benson.

Here’s an excerpt:

“I believe it a violation of the Constitution for government to deprive the individual of life, liberty, or property except for these purposes:

“1 Punish crime and provide for the administration of justice;

“2 Protect the right and control of private property;

“3 Wage defensive war and provide for the nation’s defense;

“4 Compel each one who enjoys the protection of government to bear his fair share of the burden of performing the above functions.”

Basically, that means that government can only provide a judicial system, a police force, and an army, and that it can tax its citizens to pay for that, and that alone.

Now, on the surface, that seems pretty reasonable. No big government, no volumes of rules and regulations, no high taxes. Pretty sweet, huh? In theory, it sounds great. But in practicality, I have some significant problems with it.

Any other use of taxes, he says, is redistribution of wealth and plunder. “…Once government steps over this clear line between the protective or negative role into the aggressive role of redistributing the wealth and providing so called “benefits” for some of its citizens, then it becomes means for what he accurately described as legalized plunder. It becomes a lever of unlimited power which is the sought-after prize of unscrupulous individuals and pressure groups, each seeking to control the machine to fatten his own pockets or to benefit its favorite charities—all with the other fellow’s money, of course.”

But when talking about the needy, the lame, the sick, he says, “America traditionally has followed Jefferson’s advice of relying on individual action and charity.”

OK, so where’s all this going?

Every year, Jodi goes to the state capitol to lobby the legislators to provide more funding for services for the handicapped. Most prominent among those is a system called DSPD (the Division for Services for People with Disabilities). This system helps provide many valuable services for people, like my son Jacob. Unfortunately, the system is also drastically underfunded. There is currently about a four to five year waiting list to get approved. It took Jacob about four years to get off the list and begin receiving services.

Previously, however, once you were off the waiting list and on services, you were guaranteed services and aid pretty much for good. Not so any more. This last summer, Jacob had to requalify.

Let’s look at Jacob’s situation. The actual services we receive from DSPD are actually pretty nominal. A few hundred dollars a month for respite care. But the big deal is that if you get services from DSPD, you automatically qualify for Medicaid. That’s a big deal. What that means is that after our own insurance coverage, Medicaid covers the remainder of his medical bills.

For those that don’t understand that, let me point some things out:

  1. His formula for nourishment costs $2500 a month.
  2. His wheelchair for mobility at school and home costs over $20,000
  3. His medications for Cystic Fibrosis and seizures cost upwards of 8,000 to 10,000 a month
  4. And on and on…

So, if our state legislators were to follow President Benson’s advice, we would be left with expenses of over 10 to 15 thousand dollars A MONTH!

Let me clarify. This is not because I’m a lazy bum who can’t get work to support my family. This is not because I’m a welfare leech. This is not because I have bad or no insurance. This is the cost AFTER my insurance.

Let me further clarify: This is not money we’d like to have so that we can maintain a more comfortable standard of living. This is not so that we can drive a nicer car. This is money spent on medicines (and we receive the medicines, not the money) to keep my son ALIVE. Let me stress that. Without this “unconstitutional redistribution of plundered wealth”, my son would DIE.

So, how come he didn’t die while he was waiting on the list? Because my wife tackled his health care as if it were her full-time job and found other governmental sources of “unconstitutional redistributions of plundered wealth.” It also helped that he wasn’t having seizures back then and was on fewer medications.

The alternative, according to President Benson, is to rely on the charity of those around us. Anyone willing to step up and donate a couple of grand a month to help us out? I’m not holding my breath.

Here’s my point: Yes, government is too big. I think much of that has to do with a bloated “defense” budget, but that’s another blog entry for another day. Yes, there are a lot of people who cheat welfare. Yes, the welfare system is set up to encourage people to stay on and cheat.

But let’s reform the system to truly take care of those who need it, and not cut everyone off in the process.

Mark Hansen

Closing Up The Top Five

Even though I’ve enjoyed this last series of blog posts very much, I’ve had a hard time with them as well. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been slow getting these posts written.

These have caused me some deep introspection. Possibly a good thing., but not always easy. As I’ve written my thoughts on each one of the topics, they’ve all rang hollow. And in the emptiness resounded the single thought, “You’re not doing that very well, you know”.

It made me feel very hypocritical. Fortunately, I’ve long believed that we are all hypocrites, on some level. We are all imperfect humans trying to live a perfect gospel. And in the process of sharing our thoughts on how it should be lived, we realize that we’re not always succeeding in it. That means we’re not living up to our own Sunday School lessons. And that’s not an easy realization to face.

It makes me think that rather than being called an “Active Mormon”, I’d rather be called a “Practicing Mormon”.

…Because if I keep on practicing, maybe someday I’ll get it right!

Mark Hansen


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