Saturday, May 30, 2015

Memory of Elder L. Tom Perry

Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints passed away today. I have one vivid memory of Elder Perry that I want to share here.

The year was 1989. I had entered the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah in early June. My mission call was to the Cochabamba Bolivia mission. The week before I entered the MTC two missionaries were killed in Bolivia. I entered the MTC not knowing if I would go to Bolivia or not.

During our time in the MTC, newly called mission presidents were being trained also. There were several times where members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles came to the MTC to speak or to train. As missionaries we would take breaks by walking around the MTC. As we were on a walk one day we were passing by the front door when an elderly gentleman stopped us and asked where we would serve. Four of the missionaries in our district were headed to California and told this man so. Myself and another missionary were headed to Bolivia. We informed the gentleman that we were assigned to Bolivia. With a well known smile he looked at both of us and said "Don't hold your breath". It was then we knew that we would not be going to Bolivia, however the impression was made.

As we walked away we discussed what had happened. We must have been too caught up trying to learn spanish and/or the culture of the people we were going to serve. Our teacher asked us if we knew who we had spoken with. When we answered we did not, he asked us how we did not recognize Elder L. Tom Perry. Again, the moment stuck with us.

I will never forget the smile of Elder Perry. I loved to hear him speak in General Conference. And finally, I will never forget the day I met Elder Perry and had him inform me that I would probably not be serving where I was originally called. He was an Apostle of God, that I know and he will be missed.

Friday, May 1, 2015


Counterfeit: an imitation to be passed off fraudulently or deceptively as genuine; forgery.

The term counterfeit has been used recently in many areas of my life. The definition above gives us the meaning of the word and can be used to determine is something is counterfeit or not. First it's important to understand that for something to be counterfeit there has to be a recognized authority that creates the original. This authority can be government, nature, God, etc.

Now if an authority as created (or defined) something, then by definition, anything that is an imitation of the creation is counterfeit. So let's look at a couple examples:

  1. The U.S. Government has created and defined the standards for currency and where it is created. Counterfeit currency is then anything that imitates this currency and is passed off as the original.
  2. In my faith God has defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Counterfeit marriage would then be anything that imitates this definition and is passed off as the original.
So something is counterfeit when it creates an imitation to be passed off fraudulently or deceptively as genuine. Using this definition there are a lot of things in life that could be considered counterfeit based on the acceptance of the proper authority. For me that means if God has defined something, then anything that imitates that something and tries to substitute pieces for the defined entity is counterfeit.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Giving a Hoot at Wood Badge Part 2

So last weekend was the second half of my Wood Badge training. We started the day by getting all our gear ready for our over night experience. Next we had our flag ceremony at Gilwell Field which was followed by a "grueling" hike to our camping area. I finally got to use the backpack that I purchased for a trip to Havasupai many years ago (long story as to why I didn't go on that trip that I won't relate here). Having arrived at our camping area we were instructed on the many things that can be done to have a successful backpacking trip. Afterwards we were allowed to setup our camp before moving into training sessions.

The first session was on leading change. This is not an easy thing to do as it requires getting out of your comfort zone. After lunch we had a session on generations. This was a good reminder as to the variety of people we will work with. Each generation has its own "quirks" and learning to use those "quirks" effectively makes everyone on the team feel valued. From there we went into an interactive problem solving session. In case anyone in that session is wondering you can do the carpet spaces game with 4 people in 8 moves, 6 people in 15 moves, and 8 people in 24 moves. I could go on, but I'll leave it to others to figure out the pattern. The other games were just as fun and it helped to build the patrols into even stronger teams. After a session on managing conflict and a great (and tasty) dutch oven dinner provided by the staff we played the "diversity game". This game included questions that were sometimes easy and sometimes hard to answer. It gave us a good feel for how different people view different scenarios. We also were able to discuss the scenarios and come up with good ways to handle various situations.

The highlight of the night had to be the patrol campfire program. We had everything from songs to stories to skits. We even had the electric glow dance company perform to hits like "YMCA", "Macarena", "Staying Alive", and everyone's favorite "The Chicken Dance". The Bear patrol got us hooked on the "Gummy Bear" song, while the Owl's went on the hunt for a midnight snack that may or may not have involved a staffer. The Bobwhite patrol ran things expertly and fun was had by all.

Day 5 of Wood Badge started off with a conservation project. There was work done on trail maintenance and the Wood Badge Amphitheater. It was good to do some manual labor after having the brain taxed in learning sessions. It was also good that the schedule put this earlier in the day as the high hit 94 or more degrees. After the conservation project we had two sessions on coaching and mentoring and self assessments. After lunch the patrols got to present the projects they were working on. We had everything from Leave No Trace to Fire Starting to Knots to the new Cub Scout Program to Lashing. After the project presentations we had our ticket reviews, and then the rest of the day was spent as a patrol.

The time spent as a patrol was probably the best part of the day for me. We got to cook a meal (Steak, Fish, Potatoes and Onions, and Cobbler) and make homemade root beer. It took us a little longer to get dinner ready, but it was worth the wait. We then went to each patrol and invited them to share some root beer with us. We also got treated to some of the other desserts that the other patrols made. It was good to get to know everyone in a more relaxed type of atmosphere. Later on our Scoutmaster and Course Director Wade Noble visited our patrol site. It was good to hear from him one on one (as it were) and see how much he cares about scouting. We then spent the rest of the night around the campfire telling stories and reflecting on our experiences at Wood Badge

Day 6 started with breaking down the camp site and our last flag raising ceremony. After the assembly we had an Interfaith Worship Service. It is great to have these and see how different people worship. I thoroughly enjoyed the sermons and music during this time. Then came the obligatory group picture. Of course trying to get everyone positioned just right took time and we were all grateful when finally it was done.

We had a session on servant leadership before the closing luncheon. At the luncheon the patrols all had time to thank various individuals who helped us through the experience. It did get emotional and I won't lie, my voice did crack during my moment to say thanks. After lunch we had a session on leaving a legacy (which included clips from "Mr. Holland's Opus") followed by a course assessment and a summary session. Then it was time to clean up the camp before the closing ceremony at Gilwell Field.

The closing ceremony was another emotional event. The culmination of the experience. One last chance to say thank you to the staff and prepare for the completion of our ticket goals. Throughout the experience new friends were made, much was learned and we are all better for having attended.

I want to say a final thank you to the staff, especially Ward, Wade and most especially Mary. Thank you everyone for this great experience and I look forward to seeing you again at mine and others beading ceremonies.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Giving a hoot at Woodbadge

Last weekend I attended the first session of Woodbadge. For those of you who don't know what Woodbadge is, it is leadership training for those who have positions in the Boy Scouts of America. The course is designed for you to learn about all aspects of scouting from Cubs through Venturing. Along the way you are taught various skills while having fun.

The first session is 3 days. You arrive on day one having no idea who you will be partnered up with, nor quite what to expect. After check-in you are led down a trail where you learn about cub scouting with the cub scout motto, law and handshake. After that you have gathering activities. These were things like bean bag toss, marshmallow sling-shot, knot tying, den elimination and marble attack/defense. This allowed for some bonding and getting to know some names while having fun.

After the gathering activities we were divided into Dens with a Den Chief. The Den Chief is your guide throughout Woodbadge. He/she is the one who will help you get the most out of your Woodbadge experience. I think you have to be a little crazy to be a Den Chief, but hey that's half the fun. Once divided into dens the fun really begins. We got some orientation into the scout uniform (it's actually more comfortable than it looks to tell you the truth) and the scout acronyms that are in constant use.

Next you get educated on Gilwell Field. This is a symbolic area representing the field where the first Woodbadge training was held. It is considered a hallowed place and is to be treated as such. It is there that flag ceremonies are held and where instruction is given on various historic flags. It's also the place where you get biased weather and sports reports.

For lunch on day one you have the Blue and Gold banquet. Our banquet had a royal theme (think knights and medieval times). It also does the crossing over ceremony where you go from a cub scout to a scout. It is here that you get your animal avatar and your den becomes a patrol. We have 6 patrols in our sessions (Beavers, Bobwhites, Eagles, Foxes, Owls {the best patrol IMHO}, and Bears). It is here that you learn the "Woodbadge Theme Song" "Back to Gilwell".

After the banquet we go into our first Troop meeting. Elections are held and patrol leaders, assistant patrol leaders, scribes, and chaplain aides are elected. The positions rotate each day so the elections allow for the transitions for the six days. I had the privilege of being the patrol leader the first day. There are two induction ceremonies that happen at this troop meeting. The first is for all participants of the course. We are inducted into troop one and get the neck kerchief for the troop (this after we made our own Woggles which are the sliders for the kerchief). The second induction was for the patrol leaders.

The rest of day one was spent in meetings with instruction and fun. At night we played the "Who-Me" game with our patrol. It was a good way to get to know one another better and helped solidify our patrol as a unit. The last part of the day was a campfire program put on by the staff. This was a good lesson in how to have fun and teach important principles. Then it was off to bed so that day two could be as fun as day one.

Day 2 kicked off with breakfast and then the flag ceremony at Gilwell Field. We then had a troop meeting where two games ensued. The first was called Zulu Toss where the members of the patrol are put into a circle formation and a set of tennis balls are introduced that have to be tossed around the circle in various patterns. It was obvious that I didn't sleep well the first night as my brain decided to take a few moments off and I was responsible for several disruptions to our tossing flow. The second game was called Front End Alignment. The patrol leaders were told to play a particular part in this game which was unknown to their patrol members. Some of them were told to be dictator like while others were to be more accommodating to their members. Both games taught lessons in teamwork and leadership.

We then had a presentation on inclusiveness. This was a great discussion on how we can be better at including others while still holding to the values we believe in. Not everyone is from the same ethnic, socioeconomic, religious, etc background in our session. This presentation allowed us to open up and discuss ways to make each other (and in turn the boys we serve) feel included and an integral part of our patrols and troop. Other lessons included team development (forming, storming, norming and performing) and communication. We then went to project planning as in the second session each patrol has a presentation to the troop. This was not easy as there are many logistics to consider, but I think that each patrol has a good idea and will do wonderful.

The highlight of the day had to be rocket building. These were made with 2 liter bottles, duct tape, cardboard, rocks and other materials. Of course the Owl rocket took the day as it soared higher than the rest (even the staff rocket which they tried to modify so they wouldn't lose :) ). After dinner and patrol meeting it was time for games once again.

The first game was a Jeopardy type game around our knowledge of various scouting items. Unfortunately the Owl patrol did not win this game (in fact we were eliminated from the final round because we had negative points). The Bear patrol did win the game by narrowly defeating the Fox patrol (I didn't think that bears could be slier than foxes, but in this case they were).

The second game was called the Game of Life. There were three scout leaders that ran this high energy game that had us laughing and being raucous. Of course there were rules that weren't explained very well and it took a while for the patrols to figure out how to do well. In fact it was teamwork that was needed in order to get the most points possible.

Day 3 began with breakfast and as we were the program patrol we got to do the flag ceremony. It's always an honor to raise the colors of our great country. After the ceremony we were instructed on how to hold an interfaith service. This was a great way to understand how to have people of different faiths come together and worship in a way that didn't preclude anyone nor dissuade anyone from participating. There was great discussion and many ways expressed so that everyone in a troop can feel included in a worship type setting.

After the interfaith service we went over the EDGE method of teaching. Explain, Demonstrate, Guide, and Enable. These four pieces make up an effective way to teach others in various areas. It is a powerful tool that can be added to one's repertoire and used appropriately.

From there we discussed conservation projects and the many ways we can help in our communities and environment. It gave me some great ideas that can be done with scout patrol I am the assistant scoutmaster for. We will also be doing a project in the second session and were informed as to what that project was and how we can make sure that it will benefit those who use the camp when we have left.

The last instruction we had was to watch the movie "October Sky" and review how different parts of the movie demonstrated the various principles we were taught over the past three days. It served as a good review of what we learned and what we can apply going forward.

The last thing we did was have a closing ceremony at Gilwell Field. The colors were retired and had some last minute instruction from the staff before helping to clean up (always remember to Leave No Trace) and head for home.

The three days of training were excellent. The homework we have before the second session has been started (I'll write more about that after the second session). I believe that everyone benefited from the first session and I can't wait to meet up again at the end of the month for session two.

Friday, January 30, 2015

MLS Live Subscription renewed

I know I have a critical eye towards MLS and it's level of play. However, that doesn't mean I'm not going to support the league when I can so that it can grow. Yesterday I got an announcement to renew my subscription to MLS Live at the price of ~$65. I did the math and determined that it's $7/month of the season. This being January it actually comes out to $5.42/month. Is that worth it? In my opinion yes.

This season we are seeing a lot of the US Mens National Team play in MLS. While not a top level league, those players are going to get tons of minutes and will have the chance to hone and improve skills that they wouldn't get sitting the bench in La Liga or the BPL. I still don't believe it is the best move to have our best players here. There is a lot to be said for the having players at the right club level when the World Cup comes around.

The only bummer about the package is the blackout rules. Now I'm lucky in a way as I don't live in an MLS market. This means there aren't any local blackouts. But there are national blackouts for games on ESPN, NBCSN, FOX Sports 1, etc. At some point this will change. The nice thing about the package is that I can watch those games at a later date if I so choose.

The taste I got from MLS Live last year has led to this renewal. I may even try my hand at doing weekly recaps of the games and commentating on what I see and how the league may or may not be progressing. Of course I would have to find the time to do this, but hey sleep is highly overrated so it might just work out.

For those of you who are looking to help grow the sport of soccer in our country I encourage you to strongly consider subscribing to MLS Live and seeing the league. If you, like I, have cut the cable, then MLS Live is a good way to see games live and catch up on games you might not be able to watch otherwise. I enjoy having it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

US Best Players Coming to MLS

If all the rumors are true, then the best players in the US Mens National team are coming home. Except for goalkeepers, US soccer stars have a hard time staying in the top leagues in Europe. One only has to look at Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey to see that our best just doesn't seem to cut it over the pond. However, that doesn't mean that all our best players should come home.

MLS is a mediocre league at best. I don't think anyone would argue with that. Even with the infusion of English stars past their prime and America's best players, it will still be a mediocre league. Will I renew my subscription to MLS Live? Yes, absolutely, it is money well spent. It also allows me to make judgements on MLS' play vs other leagues in the world.

The bigger problem is with the US Mens National team. If our best players only play in a mediocre league than, in my opinion, we will only be good enough to get out of the group stage at the World Cup. We will NOT get past the round of 16. Other teams will have multiple players that play in the world's best leagues and there is no way MLS can compete with that.

I want to see the US get to the finals (not necessarily win it all) in my lifetime. However, if our boys can't make it in the best leagues in the world, then we will not get there. If they choose to follow the example of Landon, Clint, and now what looks like Jozy Altidore and Mix Diskerud, we will have them at home. That might be good for MLS, but it will be bad for the US Mens National team.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Gift

Yesterday we had the opportunity to have the Sister missionaries over for dinner. It's always good to have them over and feel of the spirit that they bring. After dinner the Sisters shared a spiritual message with us. They shared a video titled "He is the Gift". After viewing the video each of us was asked what we thought and what stood out to us in the video.

My answer to this inquiry was to state that Christmas seems to be getting pushed into the background noise. We have to be more PC around this time of year and not seem to mention the word Christmas at all. It is a lot different than when I was growing up and Christmas was the focus of the holiday season. My mind also went back to a clip from "Merry Christmas Charlie Brown".

The real reason we have Christmas is because our Heavenly Father sent His Son to the earth. As we read in John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

One of my favorite Christmas carols tells why this Gift was so important:

Oh Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Savior's birth.
Long lay the world, in sin and error pining, till he appeared and the soul felt it's worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder lay a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh hear the angels voices! Oh night divine!
Oh night, when Christ was born.

So this Christmas season let's remember that if it weren't for the Father sending his Son we wouldn't be celebrating. We wouldn't be looking to Black Friday to get deals on gifts. We wouldn't be looking forward to Bad Sweater parties or holiday work parties. We wouldn't be spending time with our families on that eve where the true meaning of Christmas is shared by reading the account found in Luke Chapter 2. The first Gift of Christmas has led to this time of celebration, we must always remember this Gift above all others.