Saturday, April 30, 2005

Bryan's First Scout Camp

Last weekend, Bryan went on his first scout camp. He was pretty excited to go. I remember how excited I was when I was 11 years old -- looking forward to camping with the scouts. I remember collecting scouting and camping equipment, and keeping it in a box (my "Scout Box") and daydreaming about the campouts to come.

Bryan has now reached that milestone. I helped him pack his gear, and showed him how to set up the small dome tent, and take it down. We had him all set to go the night before they left. His gear was all set out by the front door so that he could grab it and go when the time came on Friday afternoon.

I interviewed Bryan about his adventures, right after he came home. I have posted his recollections of his adventure over on Bryan's Blog. Go take a look at it, and leave him a comment.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Stop Growing Up! . . . I Mean it!!!

Robin In A Tree
Originally uploaded by tankgirl.

You know they're growing up when its time for the 'ole Birds and Bees Talk. Yep, that Birds and Bees talk.

Last Week, Bryan and I attended a "Maturation" class, sponsored by the elementary school.

In the past, we have taught the children some of the general concepts about where babies come from, without going into explicit detail.

(Bee Pollinating a Passion Flower)

However, we wanted to be the first to tell our children about this topic. We didn't want Bryan to hear it first from ill-informed friends on the playground, the school, the NEA, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, or any other group with a political agenda.

How one uses his or her powers of procreation has much to do with the degree of success and happiness one will experience in life, - both in this life, and in the world to come.

So on the day BEFORE the maturation class, Bryan and I decided to go have a little talk of our own.

We had our family home evening, as usual. Then after family prayer, Bryan and I went out for a drive to the International Airport.

We found a secluded spot near the airport runways where we could have an uninterrupted chat, and watch the airliners take off, and land.

Above all, I wanted to stress the sanctity and holiness associated with the process of bringing children into this world, and how it is an important part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I began by talking to Bryan about the Plan of Salvation, and how obtaining physical bodies is an essential element of Our Heavenly Father's Plan. Without obtaining physical bodies, we could not progress in our goal to return to, and one-day to become like our Father in Heaven.

I then discussed with Bryan how Heavenly Father has shared with us his power of creation - the ability to create mortal bodies in which to clothe his spirit children. Within each of us, male and female, He has given the seeds of life. This ability to procreate comes with strong urges and desires to induce us to take on the responsibilities of parenthood, and to ensure that His spirit children will have the opportunity to receive physical bodies.

From the time of the Garden of Eden God has commanded that this sacred power of creation be used only within the bonds of marriage. Any use, or abuse, of this power outside the bonds of marriage (between a man and a woman) is strictly forbidden by God. Only those who properly safeguard and use this power in this life, will have the power to exercise this power in the world to come.

Some of the greatest happiness and fulfillment we can have in this life stems from righteously bringing children into the world, and raising them up in unto the Lord. Although it is a challenging responsibility, with many ups and downs, joys and disappointments, nonetheless; it causes us to stretch and grow in many ways, and come to understand more about our Heavenly Father and his purposes.

On the other hand, using these powers of creation against the commandments and counsel of God, can bring upon us some of the greatest misery and ruin that can be experienced in this life. From the possibility of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, to an unintended pregnancy. There are great consequences associated with conceiving and bearing a child out of wedlock, both for the parents, and the unborn child, and society as a whole as well. Quality of life is diminished for both the child and the parents (especially the mother).

Heavenly Father is wise to command us to wait until we are married to use this power, and to bring children into the world at the proper time in our lives, and under the best of circumstances. A child has a right to both a mother and a father, who love each other, who are committed to family life, and who are married to each other. This provides a great deal of stability in the child's life. The parents are also more mature, and better prepared to raise and nurture a child.

Bryan and I then discussed the changes that were about to come into his life - both the physical and emotional changes that he will experience as he moves from childhood into adolescence.

We discussed male plumbing and anatomy, what the various parts are and what they do.

We also discussed female maturation changes, and the accompanying female plumbing and anatomy.

Then we discussed the delicate topic of just how the male seed is introduced to the female seed, and how conception takes place, and life begins. We discussed the gestation process, and how birth takes place. Now he truly knows where babies come from - most of the time, at least. In Bryan's case it was by C-Section, which I also explained.

Now that he knows about the respective male and female plumbing and anatomy, and how conception and birth takes place, we then spent a good deal of time on the rules - or the Moral Code. We discussed the importance of keeping ones self morally clean, with an eye toward future goals of going on a mission, and a temple marriage. We discussed the peace, confidence, and protection that one can feel as they save themselves for marriage.

I asked Bryan what things he had heard about this topic either from school or from friends. I was mildly surprised to hear that some of his schoolmates had been in the habit using sexual terms as epithets. He has long known of the "F-word", now he knows what it really means. Bryan also mentioned that he had hear the words "Gay" and "Lesbian" at school, and wanted to know what they meant. I explained what those terms mean as well. We discussed how inappropriate obscene and vulgar words are, given the sacredness of the power of creation. I helped Bryan see that the power that knowledge and being well-informed can give him. With the knowledge he now has, he can better combat the evil influences that are around him, and not be deceived.

Overall, we were gone for about 2 1/2 hours - a little longer than I had expected. I felt like it was a good bonding experience between Bryan and Me.

The next night we went to the Maturation Class at the school. I had found that we had pretty much covered everything that the school covered. The presenter used an overhead projector, with some simple illustrations that helped Bryan better understand the plumbing and anatomical aspects of the subject matter. The school brought in a guest speaker, a former elementary school principal, who did a wonderful job presenting the subject matter. Bryan did great during the presentation. Due to our little chat the night before, there was nothing in the presentation that caught him by surprise.

On the other hand, there was a young man sitting in the row ahead of us, who was not so prepared for the information presented. This young man found parts of the presentation more than he could endure - He covered his ears with his hands, shrugged his shoulders, shut his eyes and bowed his head. For him, there was just way toooo much information all at once. I'm sure this has as much to do with this young man's overall maturity, as well as perhaps not being prepared in advance for what was to come.

I was glad that Bryan was well-prepared, and able to receive everything so well.

I decided to sent Bryan's principal an email with my feedback about the maturation class. Here is the text of the email that I sent the next day:

I just wanted to give you a little feedback on the boys maturation
class last night.

I attended with my son, Bryan, and found the class to be really well-done.

Mr. Newman did a wonderful job. Everything was done in very good
taste, and with proper respect for moral values and standards as
well. I appreciated his use of appropriate humor as well, which
helped to put everyone at ease.

This is a very good program, and I can see why you have wisely taken
advantage of Mr. Newman's services in making this presentation.


I feel fortunate to live in an area where this most important topic was dealt with in such a sensitive and respectful way. Kudos to the principal for choosing the right presenter.

It remains to be seen in later years as Bryan receives further school instruction and "sex education" if this pattern of good taste, decency, and a respect for family values and moral principles will continue. I hope it does.

As for me, I feel good about the rapport and communication that Bryan and I were able to establish with one another. I intend to meet with Bryan one-on-one on a regular basis to re-visit this topic, and any social pressures that he may be feeling.

Communication lines have been established, and I want to keep them open during the critical years to come.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Lotsa Talks

I have had a lot of speaking assignments with my church calling the last few weeks, four in all.

The first was a Priesthood Lesson on Being a Patriarch in the Home. I gave this lesson as part of a Ward Conference.

Second Was my regular monthly speaking assignment. I was assigned to talk on The Law Of Tithing.

Next, I had the opportunity to teach a lesson at the local youth correctional Center. It happened to be Easter Sunday, so naturally, my lesson was on The Message Of Easter.

This was a unique experience, one which only comes around once a year. I ended up teaching the same lesson, to three different groups. The first group was mostly girls, ages 12-18. Normally this first group has about a dozen participants. This time however, there were others who came to participate, and the group ended up being about 40 individuals.

The second group was boys, ages 12-18. There were about a dozen participants in this group. Many of these boys had attention span problems, and other developmental problems. In fact, some of them got up and left the room during the lesson. I didn't take it personnaly though, I knew that for some of them sitting still for 30 minutes was more than they could do. One of the boys who left the classroom got into some kind of trouble out in the hallway, and had to be taken into custody, and returned to his room.

The third group was boys from 14-18 years of age. They were all sex offenders. I have to admit that I gulped a little when I found out the makeup of this group, but I decided to continue on in a non-judgemental way. I tried to approach them as the Savior would approach them, trying to love the sinner, without loving the sin. As it turned out, this was the lesson that I felt went the best of the day.

Since this was an inter-denominational meeting, (and a State run facility) I had to limit my comments to Bible passages only, without relying on latter-day scriptures and conference talks as usual.

For part of my lesson, I showed them photos taken in Death Valley of the recent wildflowers (as noted in the link above). I also used these photos for my Home Teaching message for March, and for Family Home Evening.

I decided to email the person (Judy Moseby) who took the photos and thanked her for sharing her photographs. You can see our email correspondence here. She sent back a very sweet response.

Finally, last Sunday my Regular monthly speaking assignment April came up again (already!) This talk was on Hope Through The Atonement of Jesus Christ. This was a nice occasion, because I got to speak in my own ward for a change.

All of these talks are posted on the Gospel Study Page. Now I actually have a whole month before my next talk (Yea!)

A Real Life "While You Were Out"

This is a real life "While You Were Out" story from Murray, Utah.

Randy Sutherland, a recently Diagnosed ALS patient, decided he wanted to take his wife on a Hawaiian vacation that they had always dreamed of before his disease progressed too far. (Their first real vacation in more than 20 years of marriage.) Most people diagnosed with ALS live for only 2-5 years.

Randy decided to also withdraw some funds from his retirement account, and arranged with some friends from his church to have some rennovations done to their home, as a surprise for his wife while they were away.

When his friends and neigbhors saw the condition of their home, they decided to do much more than the few repairs that Randy had budgeted for.

Sutherland House After Renovations
(This is the House After the Renovations)

The house was basically "gutted", and re-done inside and out. New paint, flooring, electrical fixtures, marble countertops, and appliances were all included. New stucco on the exterior, a garage replaced the carport, and new landscaping and vinyl fencing.

Numerous people from the church and community helped with the labor, and many businesses all stepped up to donate skilled craftsmen, materials and appliances.

Needless to say, Randy's wife was not the only one surprised and they returned from their trip!

You Can read more by going to Randy's Web Site here.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Catching Up

Posting has been light that last couple of weeks. I had three weeks in a row where I had to prepare talks or lessons. I find that on weeks that I have a talk coming up, that most of my free time gets taken up in talk preparation.

The week has been busy nonetheless. On Tuesday Jeannette closed on her house. Its officially hers now. She has been working on customizing some things (mostly painting). The house comes with basic white paint throughout. Her home has three bedrooms. Her master bedroom is now lavender color, with a rich purple accent wall. Her guest room is a spring green color. The sewing room is a medium turquoise color. She had grey carpet installed throughout, so the carpet will go with pretty much any color she comes up with. For now, the other walls will remain in their original white. (I will post some photos of the rooms with their new colors as soon as possible (flickr has been down today).

Master Bedroom

Mark has helped Jeannette a great deal with low-voltage wiring, painting and other customizations. Bryan and I went over yesterday for a few hours to help with paint preparation projects too. We worked on getting the garage ready to be painted (primed). Bryan put mud on most of the screw holes in the garage sheet rock.

Mom and dad came up to bring us some lunch. We had some of mom's famous BBQ Beef, along with some of her patented macaroni salad with sweet pickles, and cubed cheese.

Guest Room

After lunch though, Bryan heard the call of mud of a different color. He noticed a rather large rain/mud puddle in the yard next to Jeannette's house. The putddle was about 30 feet around, and probably was a good 6 inches deep in the center. He wanted to learn how to skip stones. After lunch, I told him to find some flat stones, and showed him how to hold them in his hand. Then I told him how to throw them, side-armed fashion, with a low trajectory, while spinning the stone off your index finger as you release the stone. This gives you the greatest chance to achieve skipping action. Bryan practiced his skipping technique (while naturally getting quite muddy in the clay soil). By the time we were ready to leave, Bryan had to show me how he was doing. He was able to get some stones to skip 6-7 times. Not too bad at all! Of course, he insisted that I show him my technique in practice, rather than just in theory as earlier. So I threw a few my self (I don't know why, but somehow I was able to leave the area without being caked in mud. Hmm... maybe Bryan just has a magnetic attraction to mud! How else to exlain how all that mud that just seems to cling to him?)

When the soil dries out enough, the contractor will come back and finish the landscaping (which includes sprinklers and lawn in the front yard.

Saturday evening, Bryan, Myself, and Grandpa Joel all went to the Priesthood Session of General Conference over at our Stake Center. It was fun to have 3 generations together. One of our old ward members, Brother Ron Howell, now lives in my stake (10th ward). He came over to chat with dad for a couple of minutes. Dad was glad to see him.

Bryan made an extra effort to pay attention in the Priesthood session, and he did remarkably well. I think it was helpful that many of the talks were aimed directly at the Young Men.

During the closing song, I made a comment to dad, that I was surrounded by 2 Joels. (Dad’s first name, and Bryan’s middle name). That also brought a smile to dad’s face. He was chuckling to himself about 2 Joels all the way home.

We enjoyed listening to conference together. We got to hear all of the sessions (even if some of them were on my headset radio on Saturday, as I was working on Jeannette’s house. The most memorable talk for Bryan was one heard in Priesthood session which had the theme: “Beware of the evil behind the smiling eyes”, which was largely about discerning good from evil, and learning to steer clear of evil and unclean things.

Overall, it’s been a busy, but good weekend.