Rich Alger

Personal Online Journal

Monday, August 18, 2014

The More Intimately You Know Someone

The truth is that the more intimately you know someone, the more clearly you’ll see their flaws. That’s just the way it is. This is why marriages fail, why children are abandoned, why friendships don’t last. You might think you love someone until you see the way they act when they’re out of money or under pressure or hungry, for goodness’ sake. Love is something different. Love is choosing to serve someone and be with someone in spite of their filthy heart. Love is patient and kind, love is deliberate. Love is hard. Love is pain and sacrifice, it’s seeing the darkness in another person and defying the impulse to jump ship. (The Great Kamryn)

But she had wings

“When she transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty, but of her weirdness. They wanted her to change back into what she always had been.

But she had wings.” (Dean Jackson)

Read the Book of Mormon

I am reading the Book of Mormon in 90 days. My oldest got his call about a month and a half ago. He was challenged to read or re-read the Book of Mormon again before the start of his mission. My wife challenged me to read with her and him.

In the last few weeks, I have gotten behind in my daily goal. I spent a couple of hours waiting for my car to be serviced yesterday and decided I might catch up. An interesting thing happened. I was reading more critically than I normally do. I looked for a reason to see Korihor's side. I stopped at one point and made a list of the good, salt of the earth atheists I know (I know a few) and compared that list to the good, salt of the earth Mormons I know.

Then today, in church, we talked about Naaman and how his story started because a hand-maiden of his wife said that there is a prophet in Israel. The point was made that it is sometimes just a simple testimony that can cause much good. I raised my hand and said that it probably wasn't just the few words that made the most difference. I imagine this hand-maiden as a salt of the earth kind. One that is trustworthy and faithful. When she said that there is a prophet in Israel, the wife knew she could trust her. It is our examples that are the testimonials that matter.

For me, the greatest testimonies are the lives of the salt of the earth Mormons I know.  My father and mother, my mother in-law and father in-law. Several others that I have known personally. I don't have any illusions that these good people don't have their faults. I see them, or at least I see what I think is them through my own dark glass. But they are good. I admire them. I see the fruits of years and decades of dedication. Of forgiveness between parent and child. Wounds that might have festered and torn the family apart, became whole again.

How do I reconcile that with the good, salt of the earth atheists I know? Only that God judges based on what we know to be true. That no honest person will be denied any chance of progress later. And that even the dishonest ones will be given every chance to repent.

As I was driving home from the mechanic yesterday, I went through my mind again, of the things that I know for sure. One thing I came to that did not seem disputable.
"Say nothing but repentance unto this generation" D&C 6:9
"Say nothing but repentance unto this generation" D&C 11:9
"preach nothing save it were repentance and faith on the Lord" Mosiah 18:20
"preach naught but repentance" D&C 19:21
"And of tenets thou shalt not talk, but thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost" D&C 19:31

If I were to do nothing but practice repentance the rest of my days, it would be well for me. What is repentance? To turn away from evil and towards God. To separate myself from my worst habits. To incrementally be better. To fight against the entropy of my soul. To reach for the light that gives life to plants and all life.

Monday, July 28, 2014

That's How the Light Gets In

He uses the traveling salesman problem to illustrate why we must not try to reach perfection before choosing to act good enough.

"That's How the Light Gets In" Tyler J. Jarvis, BYU Devotional, July 09, 2013, YouTube

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Panoramic View of His Earthly Ministry

"The Sacrament—and the Sacrifice" David B. Haight, General Conference, Oct 1989.

Elder Haight shares a dream and vision he had of the Savior as he recovered from a serious operation.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Enabling the Power of the Holy Ghost

My dad suggested this talk to me. Here are some of the things that stood out to me.  ("The Truth of
All Things" Ryan Holmes, BYU Devotional, May 07, 2013, YouTube)

Said to Ryan Holmes by his mission president as he was leaving his mission.
“You see things more clearly now than you will until midlife.” Well, here I am twenty-five years later, at midlife, finally understanding what he meant. He meant that as missionaries we had been in a special situation where our personal righteousness and our desire to do God’s will aligned in a way that is difficult to achieve outside the mission field. Consequently we had enjoyed the influence and companionship of the Holy Ghost more fully than we would again until midlife. And he was right. You come home and pursue your education; you worry about your finances and your social life; and then come your spouse, your children, and your career. It’s a struggle to manage all the priorities and all the distractions.
I also learned that I had to explicitly ask for specific guidance. Let me repeat that: explicitly ask for specific guidance. You have to ask because God is no respecter of persons—He loves all His children and has repeatedly told them, “Ask, and ye shall receive”;3 “seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”4 Asking is an important part of the law that governs receiving. And not only should we ask, but we should ask for specifics. Like President Thomas S. Monson has often said, “When we deal in generalities, we rarely have success; but when we deal in specifics, we rarely have a failure.”5 As a missionary I learned to pray for very specific things.
In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord repeatedly counsels missionaries to “open your mouths and spare not” and to “speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts,” with the promise that “it shall be given you . . . in the very moment, what ye shall say.” I believe there is a key here to enabling the power of the Holy Ghost. When we are doing our best to keep the commandments, then our first thoughts and first impressions are often the inspired ones.(emphasis is mine)
Alma explained the process of spiritual growth this way:
It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full. (Alma 12:9-10)
Heed and diligence are like the Lord’s encryption technology.
So let’s recap a little: We need to be righteous so that we have a valid claim upon the companionship of the Holy Ghost. We need to ask for specifics in our prayers and ponderings. We need to recognize and act upon the enticings of the Spirit, which are often given as our first impressions “in the very moment” of need.
But still there are some who blame God or deny His existence because of the suffering and injustice they see in the world. They lack the proper perspective and understanding of the central role that agency plays in the plan of salvation. My experience has been that the hardest questions in life—questions about cruelty, war, injustice, inequality, abuse, disability, death, and all of these tough situations—are best understood in the context of man’s agency, both individually and collectively. In Doctrine and Covenants 58 the Lord said:
I command and men obey not; I revoke and they receive not the blessing.
Then they say in their hearts: This is not the work of the Lord, for his promises are not fulfilled. But wo unto such, for their reward lurketh beneath, and not from above. (D&C 58-32-33)
We believe in God’s omniscience, that all things are present before Him and He sees them all.19 But we do not believe in determinism. We believe that the dominant feature of mortality is the agency of man, and it drives the show here on earth and in the eternities.
Receiving Eternal Truth is like a transaction.
We mostly skip along the surface, rarely diving deep into a matter, because the sheer volume of information we are processing dictates such behavior. There just isn’t time. And the relevance of the content—as it is usually referred to now—is judged solely by what is “most popular” or “most recent.”
But real truth has never been judged on those merits. Eternal truth is a view of things as they really are.23 It is also transactional—meaning that there is an attached responsibility to act upon it, to integrate it. Remember the HD encryption technology the Lord uses: Heed and Diligence! It’s built into the system. We cannot hope to have more truth than we have now unless we apply what we already know.
Besides information glut, there are other potential challenges to enabling the power of the Holy Ghost that I didn’t face twenty-five years ago. I have a theory about the general shape of the learning curve—something I recognized as a college student. It is shaped like an S.

On a graph, this S-shaped learning curve shows the relationship between the amount of continuous, uninterrupted time we devote to something and the output quality of that endeavor. Whenever we undertake a task or begin a project or an assignment, there is a certain amount of start-up time required to get acclimated (the bottom of the S). Then we eventually get into “the zone” (the middle to the top of the S), where every unit of time we spend yields more output (i.e., new knowledge) than was possible during start‑up mode. In the zone we dive deep, and we become totally immersed in focused thought. The key is to get into the zone quickly and stay there as long as possible. But in today’s connected world we are constantly interrupted by buzzing, beeping, and ringing notifications that we assume require an immediate reaction. Hyper attention to digital noise causes us to slide right back down the learning curve, forever stuck in start‑up mode—the area of the learning curve where our efforts are the least productive. 
We are being conditioned to react in a certain way to digital stimulus, and this rewiring of our brains is not without consequence. We are developing a form of societal attention deficit disorder. A recent study revealed that the average person checks their phone 150 times per day, or every six and a half minutes.
In conclusion, I’d like to tell you something Joseph Smith once said about the gift of the Holy Ghost:
I have an old edition of the New Testament in the Latin, Hebrew, German and Greek languages. . . .
. . . I thank God that I have got this old book; but I thank him more for the gift of the Holy Ghost. . . .
. . . The Holy Ghost . . . is within me, and comprehends more than all the world; and I will associate myself with him. (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 349–50; HC 6:307–8; The King Follett Sermon)
We might say in our hearts something similar: I have this smartphone in my pocket. It can do some amazing things, and I am thankful for it. But I am more impressed by and thankful for the gift of the Holy Ghost. He is smarter than all the world, and I will associate myself with Him.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Erev Yom Kippur

On an episode of West Wing, the President mentions his realization of a certain tradition in Judaism
On Yom Kippur, G‑d mercifully erases all the sins we have committed "before G‑d"—but not the sins we may have committed against our fellow man. If we really want to come out of this holy day completely clean, we need to first approach any individual whom we may have wronged and beg their forgiveness. ("Asking Forgiveness",
So you should ask forgiveness from your fellow man before Yom Kippur or Erev Yom Kippur. This reminds me of a teaching of Jesus in the New Testament.
Matt 5:22-24
22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
 23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
 24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
Mark 11:25-26
25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
 26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.
And that is repeated in the D&C
D&C 64:10 I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.
D&C 82:1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, my servants, that inasmuch as you have forgiven one another your trespasses, even so I, the Lord, forgive you.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Fall Down and Partake of the Fruit

[Lehi] saw other multitudes pressing forward; and they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree. (1 Ne 8: 30)
I want to be a part of the fourth group of people that Lehi saw. What did they do?

They "pressed forward". Don't give up. If you have, start again. See step one.

They "came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron". The word came reminds me of "come unto Christ". To come means we came from somewhere. It is from the neutral ground as Adam and Eve did, or it is from the adversary's ground. They caught hold of the rod of iron, the same as the second group Lehi saw.

They continued to "press their way forward". They didn't give up. This is repeated so it would benefit me to remember not to give up.

They "continually [held] fast to the rod of iron" Unlike the second group, they continually held fast to the rod of iron. They continually held on to the word of God.

They "came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree". We do not usually fall down to get fruit from a tree. This is a different kind of tree. It is the Love of God. To partake of it, we must fall down. We must surrender our pride. We must take in the Love of God, like we take in fruit. When we eat it, it literally becomes part of who we are.