Thursday, December 12, 2013

Lord, what wilt thou have me do?

Paul on the Road to Damascus
To my LDS provide some context for the discussion that's going on about some of the new content the Church has put out, read the story of Peter and Paul, their relationship, as well as the story of the revelation Peter got concerning the gentiles in Acts 10. Start there. 

The relationship between the two men is an amazing insight into what real men as apostles and prophets are like. "But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; (1 Cor. 1:27). Yet, you wouldn't question the calling or inspiration of Paul or Peter. 

I can't imagine the accepting of the gentiles to be less than any issue our Church has ever faced. Let's not forget that. Christ in His own ministry did not even go to the gentiles. In fact, Indeed, he said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24), and he had specifically told the Apostles as he sent them on missions: “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:…“But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matt. 10:5–6.)

Yet, here was Peter, in Acts 10, receiving a revelation to take the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul of course jumps on board that revelation and finds his purpose  - to be the apostle to the gentiles. He becomes their champion. And perhaps his passion was a bit too much at times. Paul often is open about his weakness. Later, when Peter seems to have gone back on the revelation by not eating with gentiles, receives a very public and harsh rebuke from Paul (who really didn’t handle it very well). I can only imagine the whole of the situation – the reasoning for Peter and how he dealt with Paul, and everything that came with this. The issue would have been very difficult for them all. Especially Peter, since he was in Jerusalem and with the Jews pretty much all the time. There was obvious danger and a different context there than out amongst the gentiles.

Anyway, I have been thinking a lot about Paul (my favorite person in the scriptures besides Jesus). This story reminds me a lot of the Church today and the issue of race and the priesthood. I mean, can you imagine prior to the revelation to Peter what kinds of things Peter and Paul would have said and thought about gentiles and their position in the Church, etc? I’m sure they would have had their statements that would be in direct conflict with the later revealed truth.

I just think that before we become offended, angry, questioning, disappointed, or whatever else, we should remember. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord” (Isa. 55:9).

Let us have patience and faith. Paul was once a Pharisee, who was offended by Christ and his teachings, his prophets, and apostles. He would have objected to what they said, how they did it, and everything – through his learning and wisdom. But once he was converted, it was different. His first words were, “Lord, what wilt thou have me do?”

Maybe we should ask more, “Lord what wilt thou have me do?” For that is what a converted Christian asks.  The statement, What Would Jesus Do seems a bit cheesy to most, but honestly, isn’t it really that simple in many ways? Yet, we have so many who seem to want to be Pharisees more than Christians and argue about the “rightness” of everything, about who is inspired and who isn’t, what should have been done, what was said that was wrong, and on and on.

For me…my witness comes from the Spirit, not history, not opinion, nor any “fact” or interpretation of “fact”. For my view is indeed limited. When it is difficult to know of things, I know the Spirit of God never faileth. Instead of taking our concerns or doubts to Facebook, let us take to our knees, to the scriptures, and to the virtues of patience, love, and faith.

I guess I want to just make a plea for all: Trust me, I love Paul, but Paul was wrong to publicly take on Peter like that. I’m quite sure that his passionate approach was part of his “thorn in my flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7-9). As much as Paul might have even been right in the content and principle, he wasn’t in his approach. When we take to public forums like Facebook and blogs to criticize and question, etc, it does not forward the cause of Christ. I’m sure that is not what the Lord would answer with if we asked him, “Lord, what wilt thou have me do?”

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Whose America?

When I was a Junior in high school, I was chosen to represent my county in Indiana as the male representative to a week long "citizenship" camp held at Franklin College. The purpose of the camp was to bring together high school leaders from across the state to learn, discuss, and experience American democracy and citizenship. Honestly, this was one of the best things I participated in during high school and wish every student could participate in something so powerful and informative.

This experience was my introduction to a life (so far) filled with political and civic involvement ranging from running for city council in Provo, Utah to being a state and county delegate and even participating in college politics, etc. The camp brought me understanding and inspiration for our country's democratic process and a passion for using my voice for what I feel is right.

One of the things I received when I was at the camp was a booklet called, "Know Your America", published by the American Legion. It's a 65 page book of sorts filled with information about "Americanism". It covers flag etiquette, the constitution, key American leaders, citizenship, and more. It is really a cool book - one I have referred to and studied often in my life. In fact, I was re-reading it again even this morning and came across something that really struck me.

In the opening chapter, "The American Way", the book has this sentence:

"The members of Congress and the President are chosen by the people for a definite period of time and they are delegated authority to act for the people during that time."

Delegated authority. Did you notice that?

Let's say that you and your spouse go out on a date and want to leave your children with a babysitter for the evening. The purpose of that date is to grown and maintain your relationship together - just you two. Let's be can't bring your kids along with you or the purpose would be thwarted. So you hire the babysitter to act in your behalf while you are gone. But it is a temporary assignment to the babysitter done under the guidelines and rules and conditions you set as the parents. The babysitter is there to just be stewards of your home and children while you are gone. This is delegated authority. This is what the quote above is referring to. And yes, it should feel as personal and important as leaving your children and home with a babysitter.

Unfortunately, it feels like the government is acting more and more like the owner, allowing us to leave on a date and delegating freedom to us. Let us be clear...there is no delegating of freedom. As the Declaration of Independence states,
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..."
Unalienable. Meaning that they cannot be bought, sold, or transferred from one individual to another. Freedom is guaranteed by the constitution and by our conviction of those principles. Freedom is not delegated. However, the more power the government has, the more it seems to think it can delegate freedom and dictate to us what is better for us.

Indeed, it feels to me that our government has forgotten that they only have authority to act in our behalf to secure our freedom and protect our unalienable rights, which have among them, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Also, the authority to do that with is only delegated. It is not unalienable to the government. The government has no unalienable rights. It only has delegated authority.

The question is, are we as a people going to enjoy our "date" away from the "kids" so much that we end up letting the baby sitter raise our kids and steal our authority straight out till they only delegate some sort of visiting privileges to our own freedom? Or are we going to take responsibility for the birth, the care, and the love of our own democracy? Are we going to let journalism define and create accountability - an entity that gets paid for what they do?

There are serious problems in America and it feels like we are beginning to take the wrong path towards solving them.  The far left seems to thing government should just solve things and delegate back to us freedom - as if the government can own it and can delegate it. The far right would just as soon take back all authority and do everything itself, which is why they tend to give up on any attempts at reforming public schools and see vouchers and "market" type solutions as the answer. We seem to have lost the will for discussion and compromise. One side wants to delegate all the authority and the other wants to quit delegating any authority. It was never meant to be this way.

So, whose America is it? Is it ours? Or the governments?

The truth is, America is supposed to be OURS. I am worried, however, that we are simply becoming members of a country owned by our government because we are unwilling to take responsibility for our own citizenship and our own civic duty. Remember, the authority is still technically ours. Will we remember this and come home? Or let someone else raise our country and simply give us limited visitation rights to our own freedoms?

Monday, October 07, 2013

The Best Time to Change

I have been pondering the experience of Saul/Paul from the New Testament. I find his story both fascinating and inspiring. As I have studied change for the past 10 years or so, his story is one in the scriptures that has repeatedly captured my attention. As I re-pondered this story tonight and discussed it with my wife, I came to a powerful realization (at least it was for me). Here is what I learned...

In the book of Acts in the New Testament, chapter 9, it tells of the conversion of the man known as Saul:

1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
 2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
 3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
 4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
 5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
 6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

Amazing experience! Can you imagine it? Here was Saul, one of the most powerful men in Jerusalem, who in the previous chapter it mentions had been wrecking “havoc” on the church. I won’t go much into what we may know or understand about him prior to this – other than to say that this was a highly convicted person who was passionate and driven to do what he was tasked to do. And his task was to essentially be a bounty hunter, hunting down Christians, jailing them, and I’m sure much worse.

My favorite part of this story is verse 6. Immediately after realizing who it was he was talking to, he asked, “Lord, what wilt thou have me do?”

First, he immediately calls Jesus, Lord. Minutes before, Saul considered Jesus a heretic and a blasphemer – one worthy of the death He had suffered. And now he calls Him, Lord. Second, he wants to know what to do. Without hesitation. I find it remarkable. Saul is moved 180 degrees in his conviction so quickly! Of course, it helps that he has this kind of experience, but I think Saul deserves immense credit for his reaction.

How is Saul able to do so? In such a moment, he gave up everything. He had to of been wealthy, powerful, respected, and had great relationships. And then all that was given up. He loses everything, including ultimately his life.

My belief? That Saul was already a great man. Maybe misguided and deceived, but a great man. He was probably full of integrity and conviction toward what all his learning (not a little learning) had taught him to believe. He was obviously diligent and willing. We see these same characteristics in Saul (now Paul), as he preaches for Christ. His focus was just adjusted. His perspective was changed.

So, one of the most powerful lessons for me in this story is…that the best time to change is IMMEDIATELY – the minute, the very second you know you need to. If you can stop your momentum in the wrong direction and put it right away into the right direction, why wouldn’t you?! And this doesn’t mean that you just recognize the truth immediately (as Saul did by recognizing that Jesus is the Lord), but that you act on it – Lord, what would you have me do!?!

Most of us are great people too, just like Saul - but sometimes we are blinded by our learning, our natural man, traditions, or many other distractions. I know that I recognize my wrong far ahead of my apology or my change sometimes. My first goal for the week is…to try and learn to be quick to act when I realize that I have erred and to not procrastinate change that I know needs to be made.

How blest I am to have the scriptures and the stories and examples of amazing men like Paul to learn from and to be inspired by.

To conclude here, just a thought...

What does it look like when we don’t do this? There is another Saul in the Bible – in the Old Testament. His story is the tragic side of the story.  I hope to be the kind of Saul who becomes Paul.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Let's Party Like it's December 1773

The Boston Tea Party. It is was a reaction to one of the biggest catalysts for the revolutionary war in America. As I've been thinking about the bailout a few years back, new healthcare bill,s and other recent legislation in our country, this event in December of 1773 kept coming to mind. Do you know why that event transpired? It wasn't because it created new taxes.

The Tea Act of 1773 was passed by the British Parliament to save the East India Company who was about to go out of business. Why were they about to go out of business? Because Americans were getting their tea cheaper through smuggling, which wasn't being taxed. So the East India Company was left with huge surpluses of tea and no buyers. Parliament thought they could accomplish multiple wins at once with this act. They were wrong, of course.

Parliament had huge resistance from the colonies on other taxation and were having a hard time getting them to accept taxation of any kind. The Tea Act would essentially lower the tax on tea and make it cheaper to buy. So why would the colonies revolt? Because they realized the ploy.

The Tea Act would create a monopoly on tea for the East India Company by lowering the real taxes on their tea by circumventing the London Tea Auction, for instance, and help them get around another law (the Townshend tax) which would eliminate the need for many merchants, who were acting as middlemen in the importing of tea. Also, by getting the colonists to accept the act, would make them comply with taxation simply because they had to and had no choice but to pay it if they wanted the tea.

So, a group of colonists went out and dumped more than today's equivalent of $1,000,000 or more of tea into the harbor. This was not a passive act. This also didn't just happen on that night. It spread to other places and much of the tea entering the colonies met a similar fate.

So how did this led to a revolution - I mean, this is not an essential good. Today this would be like having a revolt over coffee taxation. Plus, the tax was being lowered. Sounds like a bunch of complaining idiots crying over a small tax on tea.

So really, what is so interesting about this? What is the lesson for today?

1. The issue was that back then, people took action because of what an act like this meant to their freedom - it meant no representation for taxation.

2. It threatened businesses and real jobs and livelihoods for people by undercutting them and going around them. It was unfair subsidization of a large company to create unfair competition - and to really eliminate it.

This kind of work led to a war where real people fought and died. It led to a revolution and a constitution that was designed to protect the people from this same kind of act again. It wasn't that they just shut down the government for a few days or weeks. They didn't just argue on the TV and on Facebook. They bled and died.

Yet, here we are 240 years later and we are mad because some people in congress want to throw an act into the harbor - an act of taxation (let's be honest) that regardless of the intentions, does not fit within the ideals that this country began on. Think about it - the bailout feels a lot like helping out the East India Company. The healthcare bill feels a lot like taxation without representation - and let me explain this last one.

I know we have "representation" in congress. However, it doesn't feel anymore representative of me anymore than parliament would have felt for the colonists. I'm sorry, but we are moving toward a government monopoly on healthcare and at great expense. Instead of fixing the market and returning control back to consumers, we are closing the market down and giving it to the government (because, as we can see by the whole shutdown, they can certainly run things better, right?!).

Look, I know it feels great to provide healthcare and to help people get access. But this is not the best way - it's not even a good way - and it is not the solution that fits what makes our country work well.

I get it, I know - people need help. My family has no health care, being an entrepreneur in a startup, it costs too much for me right now. And I'm about to get a nice fat hospital bill for being in a San Francisco emergency room for a 3 hour stay for a kidney stone. It is going to be hard to deal with. But I don't want this healthcare bill. I care too much about my country and its future to want it. I have to put aside my personal feelings and circumstances and think about the future - the one I will leave my children. I cannot support it - not now, at least. There has to be another way.

People have died trying to defend our rights - rights that were so sacred and important, that even a simple tax on tea was worth revolting about. So, hooray for congressmen and people who will still revolt, who still throw even good things that they like into the harbor in favor of what is right first. I still believe right is worth fighting for. No one is asking for a war - just a better dialogue, better ideas, and for a solution that doesn't return us to being colonies of a new Washington based parliament.

Maybe I'll start a kickstarter to fund a group to create a think tank that will figure out a way. Anyone want in?

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Songs We Cannot Sing

A little while back, I wrote this letter to someone I found online who was talking about leaving the Church due to frustrations that the members and the Church in general did not seem to serve others enough. As I was re-reading this letter, I felt to share it with you all, as I think it is more of a letter to myself now, and I am moved by the thoughts I put in it...I hope you enjoy it.

Dear friend. I noticed your comments on some Mormon themed videos and saw you posted more than once that you were leaving the Church. I sincerely hope this is not so and hope it has not happened yet. As I read your comments I felt I should write you a message and, unsure of what exactly to say, here is a thought...

I am 2nd of 11 children. In my family, music has always a big part of life. We sang, we played, and I eventually got into writing music as well. I play a few instruments and generally have a very big love of music and how it makes me feel. Music is kind of a part of my senses and helps me express and feel emotions in a way I can't do without it. One of my favorite musicians to listen to is Olafur Arnalds. Very beautiful music. When I listen, sometimes it fills me with such emotion that I have a hard time breathing and I want to burst open. It's amazing to me.

There is something so perfect and God-like about some music. I think I am moved as often by the Spirit of God by music as I am any other form of testimony and expression. One of my favorite hymns is "There is Sunshine in my soul today". My mom thinks that's odd (she isn't a huge fan of that one). Anyway, the second verse in that hymn says, "There is sunshine in my soul today, a carol to my King. And Jesus listening can hear the songs I cannot sing." I love that - and I know exactly what that means.

One of the things that I sometimes struggle with, being a trained musician, is not being critical of music when I hear it in church or just about anywhere else, for that matter. I can hear every off-tune note, bad pronunciation, bad breathing, and many other things that tend to annoy me. Well, one Sunday, I was listening to someone sing a solo in church. He wasn't that good, to be honest. In fact, it was pretty below-average. At first, I sat there bugged and frustrated with it. But then the Spirit whispered that verse from my favorite hymn (the one I just wrote about above). And I was suddenly struck that perhaps this person was just trying to express their love and appreciation for the Lord in their own imperfect, but sincere way. That somehow, this was a "song they could not sing." And I knew that "Jesus listening" could indeed hear. Thinking about it now makes me emotional. So many times I have felt inadequate to the tasks and expectations of the gospel and all it offers and teaches. So many times I have failed. And yet, He forgives. And I feel joy in my repentance. And when I fail to adequately "sing my song", He listening can still hear my even feeble effort.

I don't know what your expectation of the "Church" or of others is, but I think sometimes we all tend to be "trained musicians" and have a hard time listening to the songs that others do not sing adequately enough for us. Sometimes we just hear the bad notes, the bad breathing, and everything else that doesn't work for our trained ears. It seems that you have a trained heart - one that sees the Savior's message about love and service. Many, as you know, do not sing that song well. They fail at it often. But the song is still true. And Jesus listening can hear. He even hears you in whatever efforts you make.

I think maybe you forget that the Church is not a perfect body. It is a learning body. It is just about individuals trying to hold on to each other and doing their best to be better, to sing as well as we can. Some are better than others. Some don't try very hard, if at all. But the Church, the Gospel, is still true. Your membership in the Church is not about what everyone else does or about anyone else's imperfections or what songs they do not sing. It is just about how through the beauty of the gospel ordinances and teachings, Jesus hears your effort, your song and gently forgives, loves, and improves us.

On the other hand, Satan is the Great Distracter. He will try to make you focus on anything he can, to get you to forget what you know and what you have felt. You see, what was true is always true (truth does not change). If you knew it was true, then it is still true - you may just be forgetting because you've been distracted. Even my love of music (a very good thing) can be a distraction, when I forget the songs I should hear and sing in exchange for the songs I am hearing with my earthly ear. But when I close my eyes and TRULY hear, I can hear what Jesus hears...the testimony, the reaching heart, the trial of doubt and the hope of obedience, the struggles of life, and the joys of eternal hope.

I know you can hear it. Close your eyes and listen to the smallest of songs around you. I know we don't all serve enough. But I see love of God and man all around me as people  try to sing even their most feeble song of service. It certainly may not be our best. But it is a try. It is a step - a single note, perhaps. And maybe, just maybe, you can hum with them and help them find the note. This Church, you see, isn't about what the Church does. It's about what YOU do and how Christ turns our willingness into the song of a thousand angels.

I have a feeling that with your love of service, you could make a difference. You could, by singing the beautiful song of tolerance, of love, of service, of forgiveness, help others hear that same song and maybe, just maybe, with time the Church will finally live up to the expectations of not just us, but of our Savior. Wouldn't that be amazing?! And you - yes you - could play a part. I feel it is so.

Lastly, I just want to let you know…I KNOW that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints is the true church of God. I know that Jesus is my Savior. I know that he indeed does hear our little, inadequate songs. For someone who must hear the best of all music in heaven, He still loves MY songs - the ones I do not sing well and even those I cannot yet sing.

Love, a member of the Church and a guy just trying his best to be worthy of the title, "Disciple of Christ".

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Bond for the Broken

I was sitting in the chair near the front window today. I love sitting there. I can see out on the day and feel the cool air breeze in through the small sliding window at the bottom. It is a place of peace for me as it is usually away from the business of the kitchen the living room, and all the children/commotion that goes on in those rooms.

Today was Sunday. I love Sundays. They are days for renewal. And being a broken broken soul through weakness and mistake, I need renewal. There is a deep comfort each week in knowing that I can be renewed because of a Savior and His eternal and infinite love and sacrifice for me. It would be great if I didn't keep repeating the same mistakes again and again and again. But I do, so I must seek renewal at His hand, through His mercy.

My wife came in the room with my daughter, Ella (6 yrs old) holding her hand. She said to me, "Ella is worried that she is disturbing her class with that sound she makes - would you talk to her?"

Here it was. That moment I had wondered about. Yes, here it was. My beautiful Ella. My sensitive, happy, beautiful Ella. And I was about to tell her she was broken.

How do you do that? I know many people will tell me that "broken" is a terrible word, and not the correct one. But, honestly, it kind of is that word. A system that works for most people without problem, does not work for her. By nature's definition, she is broken. Like me. I am broken too, you know.

Tourettes Syndrome. I've had it since I was a little boy. I don't remember when it began. I just remember when other people began noticing it. And now people are noticing hers - and she knows two things: 1) she can't control it, and 2) it makes her different. Hard things for a 6 year old girl. Heck, hard things for anyone, really.

I put her on my lap and held her, swallowed the lump in my throat and said a quick, fervent prayer to know what to tell her. And then, I told her all about Tourettes. How she got it (from me), what causes it, and what it causes.

Of course, the discussion didn't begin, "I need to tell you how  you are broken". Instead it began with, "My little Ella, I am about to tell you something about yourself that makes you very, very special."

Oh, the smile on her face. And the weeping inside of me.

I think for a brief moment today I knew a bit more about how God must feel. Because when I go to him worried about how I am broken, instead of telling me how I am broken, he says, "My Adam, I am about to tell you something about yourself that makes you very, very special".

Oh the smile inside me. And the weeping outside.

Ella leaped off my knee at the end of our talk and ran to tell her mom how she was special and how she had new super powers she didn't know about before (it's true, you know).

After church she said to me..."Dad!, I stayed calm today!" I am so glad, Ella - so did I. Thanks be to God for super powers, for making the broken special, and for Tourettes.

Saturday, July 27, 2013


To help my two year old, Sam, go to sleep, we often have to lay down near or next to him. Sometimes we will rub his back, other times we just have to lay there being present. Sometimes it's a bit of both. There are times when you are with him for more than 30 minutes and times when he is out pretty fast (usually more toward the 15-30 minute side).

Today I took some time to watch the kids while my wife, Amy, got her hair cut. It was in the middle of the day and I was working, trying to get some important things done for work, but my wife deserves the time out to do this. So I took a break for a bit to take care of the kids - mostly just Sam and George (7 months old). Honestly, I was a bit anxious because I was really trying hard to get this specific project done for a meeting and I wasn't going to be ready if I spent all my time watching the kids. I know, I know...

Anyway, part of my duty was to put Sam down for a nap. He did not want to go and dropped to the ground. I picked him up while he screamed and cried (this is not unusual for Sam). I carried him into his room and put him on the bed. He wanted to get up, but I said no and I knew this time might be a hard one and would take a lot of time. Well, one of my tricks to get him from stopping screaming and crying is to get him to the opposite by making him laugh. So I started tickling him and playing with him. He stopped crying and screaming and suddenly there was that awesome smile and big dimples all over his face. He can be such a sweet, cute boy when he is happy.

I had the urge to just hold and hug him, so I bent down and gave him a big hug. And he laughed.

I rose up and looked at him and he said, "more". So, for the next few minutes, we repeated this over and over with me hugging him and him saying, "more" each time and each of us laughing, until finally I told him he needed to sleep and that I would lay there with him.

As I laid there and watched him calm down and go to sleep so peacefully, I was overcome with gratitude and love for my little boy. What a gift he is, like all of my children.

Then, as I thought of our little exchange a few minutes before, I was struck with the word, "more". it repeated itself in my mind over and over.

This little sweet boy wanted more. more love. more laughter. more happiness. more time. more of me.

So many things in life say the same thing. more. And too often I find myself giving more to too many of those things. Work, food, TV, and so many other things that end up, at the end of the day, distractions. Most of those kind of 'more' are not really 'more'.

But this little boy? Not a distraction. No, he is really more. He is joy.

I have been taught all my life that " are, that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25, The Book of Mormon). If that is indeed our purpose, then that is what we should want. When we feel it, see it, know it, we should not just say, more. We should scream it - with the way we pay attention to it, work toward it, and devote our lives to it.

Well, today, I experienced joy. MORE!

Sunday, May 05, 2013

No See Um, WHAT?!

It's been a beautiful Sunday here in Utah. A perfect day for an afternoon drive. After an early dinner, we packed all of us into our min-van and headed out on our drive to find someplace we hadn't been before. Our kids have always been pretty good travelers in the car and drives are typically peaceful and a nice time for us all to enjoy beautiful scenery and a bit of peace from our every day bothers. In the car is my wife, Amy, myself (of course), and our 5 kids: Henry (7), Ella (5), Grace (3), Sam (2 this month), and George (3 mo.). At the moment, we're staying in Daybreak, a planned community in South Jordan, Utah (Southwestern end of the Salt Lake Valley). We decided to drive Northwest toward a town called, Magna. If that's where we had stopped, I wouldn't be writing this.

Magna is basically the far northwest community in the Salt Lake valley and borders the area near the airport - so it is right along I-80 west. We drove through town, explored their small, old downtown, and eventually came to where we had to take a left or a right onto the 21st South Freeway. This part of our journey on the map is the yellow line. If you go right, you head back into the city and into South Salt Lake City. If you go left, it can take you out to I-80 right next to where the Southern most part of the Great Salt Lake butts against the mountain range of the Western edge of the Salt Lake Valley. If you go West from there, you hit one more valley/town of reasonable quality, and then it's all salt/desert/salt flats. We went left toward the Great Salt Lake.

On the map, we are now on the green line.

We drove over I-80 and found ourselves at the Saltair, and old event venue that has a lot of history in Utah. It sits on the edge of the lake and I highly recommend looking up info on it. It's pretty interesting. Anyway, the road there ended in a T and we decided to take a left out to the Salt Lake Marina. We could see a bunch of sailboats out on the lake and the evening was beautiful. I though maybe we could wander around and see the beauty near the lake. But, we hadn't brought any money and the marina is a state park, so we had to turn around. We traveled back to Saltair and made our decision about where to go next...

This is the red section on the map.

I grew up along the migratory paths of birds in Nebraska and learned to love birds and nature. Of course, I have a degree in environmental science as well, so I love the whole nature thing. Best thing is, the Great Salt Lake is one of the most important bird habitats in the United States and on any given spring/summer/fall day, you can see dozens of different bird species. It really is amazing. And with the weather being so perfect, I was itching to get out of the car and enjoy a little nature. I wanted to teach my kids all about the birds. So, instead of turning back down the road we came on, I drove straight, along the old Lincoln Highway, which follows along the side of I-80 (like a frontage road). No one was on the road and I knew we'd find a place to get out and walk around. And soon we did.

It was perfect. There was a little parking lot, a trail to walk on, and an Audobon sign telling of how globally important the area was. Sweet! AND, right past the parking lot were a set of cool nature information signs that I was sure would have lots of great information about the area. It really couldn't have been more perfect.

I popped out of the car, opened doors (love automatic doors on min-vans), and started helping kids out of the van. However, I began to wonder about bugs, since when I opened the door, a few mosquito looking buts flew in and I could see a few as well, flying around. I didn't want my family all bitten up and we didn't have spray. But, it didn't seem to bad, so we decided to just be out a few minutes.

As soon as I got little Sam's shoes on and got him out of the van, I was suddenly very aware of my skin crawling, like it was tingling, and then itching. I looked on myself and didn't really seen anything, so I was confused. But I definitely felt it all over and I began to scratch and wipe the feeling all over my head, face, and neck. Then, as I looked up, I looked at Sam and saw him doing the same. As I looked closer at him, I suddenly saw the reason...little black moving dots all over him. Against his fair skin and blondish hair, you could see them. Tiny little bugs all over.

The two oldest kids had run out to the signs, but were now standing still and were figuring out the problem as well. I quickly told them all to run back and get in the car! I worked fast to get Sam in the car and Amy put Grace back in. Once we finally get everyone back in the car, by this time, we are all panicking because the bugs are all over us. they are on our clothes, on the seats, in our hair, and who knows where else! Henry is totally losing it and has his nose and mouth covered. Ella is panicking in the back with "itchies" all over her. I did a quick turnaround with the van, and started driving back down the highway as a brisk pace - with windows rolled down to let the wind blow in and hopefully the bugs out.

This is the blue section on the map.

Ella was bawling in the back and wanted the windows open to help. Grace cried everytime the windows opened. Sam looked at everyone else like they were crazy, and for once, wasn't the screaming one in the group - he looked a bit like, "hey, um, why is everyone else screaming? Isn't that MY job?!". He calmly just put his hands on his ears and at the same time kept itching and swatting away any left over bugs.

We finally got to a road that crossed over I-80 and few miles down the road were away from the type of area that would have bugs - a brand new target parking lot.

We all piled out of the van and immediately swiped away. We looked like we had ants in our pants and lice in our hair all at once. We kept checking everyone's scalps and killing the ones still moving around in there. We looked down shirts, shook out our pant legs, and all did a few really big shudders. Amy and I were laughing some because it was all a little absurd, but Ella wasn't so sure laughing was the right thing for us to do. It was one of those moments where you know you probably shouldn't laugh, but you couldn't help it.

It took 5-10 minutes before everyone was calm enough and willing to get back in the car. We had, of course, checked the inside of the car. George had been sitting in his covered car seat (thank heavens for that cover) and was unaffected by the bugs, other than being woken up by the commotion of it all.

Of course, Grace then had to use the bathroom - as did Ella. So Amy walked them into the store to use the bathroom while the boys stayed in the van. And that is when George decided he was done waiting for food and attention. He screamed, Henry looked for his pacifier, and I shook my head at how our perfect drive had taken a "Griswold family vacation" type of turn.

While the girls were inside, I used my phone to look up what the insects were. They are called, No See Ums. Yeah, that's pretty fitting. We certainly didn't "see um" until too late. Here is what they look like...

Ceratopogonidae, or biting midges
From Wikipedia: The bite of midges in the genus Culicoides causes an allergic response in equines known as sweet itch. In humans, their bites can cause intensely itchy, red welts that can persist for more than a week. The discomfort arises from a localized allergic reaction to the proteins in their saliva, which can be somewhat alleviated by topical antihistamines.

They are small. Here is how small:

Yeah, pretty creepy. They are apparently related to black flies and in the same family as Mosquitoes.

Once we all got back in the car and on our way, we only had to stop once more because Henry decided he had to go and couldn't hold it either (thanks subway for letting us use your bathroom without buying anything). Oh, and Sam finally got this chance to scream when he saw me leave the car and go into the Subway with Henry. Fitting.

Back at home, the kids were pretty great about it. Henry and Ella had gotten worst of it since they had gone the furthest from the car. I was unaffected physically because, like with mosquitoes, I am immune to their bites (see my earlier blog post on this). Henry and Ella both had showers when they got home - mostly to get the smooshed blood and bugs from their hair.

Everyone's back to their peaceful, quite selves - asleep, healthy, and all well....except probably a bit mentally traumatized for life.

And that's how a nice drive to Magna became a story worth remembering and writing.

Here is the map of our trip:

Thursday, March 21, 2013


No, this is not a post that is using Tourette Syndrome as a joke. This is actually a post about Tourette Syndrome. Why would I do that? Because I have Tourette’s.

I remember the first time I realized I had something that wasn’t normal. I was 9 or 10 years old and I was in Citrus Heights, California where other kids had made a bmx course out of a vacant field. I was with my brother Jason, and I was watching him and the older boys do whatever they were doing – riding bikes, talking, etc. I was just tagging along. Anyway, at one point, one of Jason’s friends who had been standing next to me for a few minutes, said to me with a genuinely concerned look, “dude, are you ok?” “Yes, why?,” I responded. He just casually said,  "oh, just sounds like you’re having a hard time breathing or something.” I had no idea what to tell him. It was the first time I remember realizing that what I did naturally, wasn’t normal.

I don’t remember exactly what I was doing in that moment to cause alarm, but I guess it was obvious enough to get noticed. And then suddenly, I noticed. But because my family didn’t say anything to me about it (that I remember), I put it out of my mind for the most part. It wasn’t long after that, that my mom (who has Tourette’s too) met a women at church who had a son with Tourette's, and they knew what this whole thing was and what it was about. He had it a lot worse than me, apparently. I don’t remember him or the situation. I just remember hearing the words, “Tourette Syndrome” for the first time. Well, at least there was a name to it. But I certainly wasn’t going to repeat it or bring attention to myself – my symptoms did that for me already.

I think that because I learned about it early on, that I was able to have it in my mind and somehow figured out how to escape through all the roughness of Jr. High and High School without many people even saying a word about it, and I don’t remember being made fun of  for it more than once or twice. Thankfully, it never really became an issue (huge credit to my friends!). Largely, though, that was because my symptoms are not nearly as bad as those you see in documentaries or in movie jokes, etc. Mine are a lot more subtle. In fact, some of you reading this may be surprised to learn that I have it.

Well, I know some of you, when you hear the word, “Tourette’s” thinks to a movie references or more extreme things. So I want to take some time to explain a bit about what it is and how it affects at least me…

First, Tourette’s (TS) is defined by the National TouretteSyndrome Association as “…a neurological disorder characterized by tics – involuntary, rapid, sudden movements, and/or vocal outbursts that occur repeatedly.” These can vary greatly between those who had Tourette’s. For instance, the more extreme cases involve pretty extreme physical tics that can be distracting to those around them. However, some people have tics that are pretty subtle, and only those who have learned to look for them, see them. These might be a consistent clearing of the throat or a persistent sniff even when a person doesn’t have a cold or allergies. Or it might be a small movement in a joint, like a neck movement, a shoulder shrug, or other.

TS is often undiagnosed as well – thought to be just some “nervous tic” or something. But when that tic goes on for years? Yeah, not likely it’s just a “nervous tic.” There are some important things to know about TS that all parents should be aware of…

1.  TS is an inherited, dominant gene. In fact, about 50% of children get the gene passed from the parent.

I can vouch for this one. I inherited this from my mother (it’s ok mom, it’s not a bad gift). I am one of eleven children my mother had. There are at least 4 of us siblings with TS in my family. I have 5 children of my own, all under the age of 8, and the two oldest already have shown to have TS. I have at least 2 cousins with TS as well – both on my mother’s side of the family. I sometimes wonder if it were caused somehow from the genes of my Great-Grandmother, Minerva Teichert, who was a well-known (and amazing) artist, and who spent years with lead paint splattered brushes in her mouth, and paint on her hands. Who knows – perhaps?

Interesting thought…I bet because of the pure numbers of people in my family to have TS, we have to be one of the most prolific TS families in the world. Wouldn’t you think? That would be interesting to know.

2. It is 3-4 times more likely for a son to get it from a parent than a daughter

This is true in my family (my siblings, etc). My two cousins who have it are both males.

3. The estimates are that about 200,000 people in the US have this disorder.

I bet it’s higher than that. I know several people myself that I know have it, but have never been diagnosed and most would never admit that they have anything like TS. Heck, could you blame them? Hollywood makes fun of it enough – and then the rest of society picks up the joke. Why don’t we make fun of Parkinson’s anymore (it comes from a breakdown in the metabolism of the same basic chemical groups)? Oh yeah, one of Hollywood’s own champions the cause.  To help research, we need to identify more of those who have it. If we continue to have this astigmatism attached to it, then that’s tough to do.

4. There is no race or ethnic group that is immune or that seems to dominate the disorder.

Can’t say I know anyone else (personally) who has it of another race or ethnic background, but there are videos that show it and I believe the statistics.

5. There is actually no official, defined cause for TS yet. However, it is caused by the body having an abnormal, if not extreme metabolism of certain brain chemicals – especially Dopamine

Ok, this is a really interesting part…Dopamine, you see, is a chemical used by the brain (plays a major role) for reward-driven learning. This means that folks with TS tend to have some OCD tendencies, and some have full-on OCD symptoms. Oh, and this also brings tendencies toward compulsion. Sound familiar? Well, that’s because ADHD is caused by a related chemical dysfunction. In fact, here is a BIG reason getting TS diagnosed is important…

6. Statistics for people with TS show that between 65-85% of them also have ADHD. It is one of the highest correlations of two disorders there is. 

Yes, I also have ADHD (yeah, I know that’s not news to anyone who really knows me). So, if your child has TS, then there is a high likelihood there are other issues at stake here. I will just say that the compulsiveness, the reward-learning stuff, and the OCD stuff can be some of the hardest stuff to deal with because it means that the person is much more likely to be susceptible to addictions and addictive-like behaviors. There are, of course really good/amazing sides to this, which I’ll cover in another post.

7. There is no cure for TS. And not many treatment options.

Although in rare cases, some people grow out of it as they grow up,  most live with it their entire lives. Unless the symptoms, in terms of the tics, are really bad and interfere with normal life, many doctors don’t treat TS – and I wouldn’t either. Usually it becomes discussions around how to deal with the additional problems brought by TS – the ADHD, OCD, etc. And there are some treatment options for that, which can help.

8. Only about 15% of all cases have the version of TS that has the person screaming obscenities (called Coprolalia). But of course, 100% of the jokes are about this.

9. Most kids with TS don’t have special educational needs – at least not from the TS. It’s the combination of that with ADHD and other learning disabilities that may accompany TS that are potential problems.

10. The research shows that people with TS have the same IQ range as the normal public.

In my experience, however, this changes with those who also have ADHD and other disorders with TS. Most of those I know tend to be exceptionally intelligent in at least some areas of intelligence. They certainly can think different.

That’s enough facts and commentary on them. I am going to write another post about this soon, but let me explain just a few more things from the perspective of one who has it…

1. TS is not easy to have. In fact, it can be down-right exhausting – Mentally, Emotionally, and Physically – especially physically. 

2. To explain how it feels/works in common language, let me explain it like an electrical system. When an electrical system is slammed with too much electricity, it will find the weakest and easiest place in the system to escape and do it, until the system’s input dies down. Your body is like a big electric system. Your brain/nervous system uses certain chemicals like Dopamine to create energy (electricity), which it then uses to do stuff. A person with TS has a problem because their body is WAY too efficient at metabolizing/using these chemical,s and it produces a large excess of it. This excess then runs through the body looking for a way out. For whatever reason, it finds certain muscle movements as a way to escape – sometimes in dramatic ways, sometimes in subtle ways – a true mystery sometimes how it decides what to do. However, there are some that make sense. An example is when I get a cold or allergies. Because my nose runs (from the cold, etc), I naturally sniff - like normal people. But, when the cold is up, my nervous system has burned into the memory of those muscles to keep doing it just to burn energy. Because it was a repeated action while sick, my body is much more likely to pick up on it. Most of my tics, in fact, are related to some other physical action that gets repeated due to injury, over-use, or sickness. Make sense?. Good.

3. Symptoms can vary greatly in their prominence. Sometimes my tics are almost non-existent. Of course, when I sleep they are gone, but even during the day my symptoms are very mild or gone for even long periods of time. For example – as I type this, I have noticed that my symptoms are pretty non-existent. The experience of listening to music while writing stimulates me and calms my system. But when I am overly tired or stressed or unhealthy, my symptoms can be painful, tiring, and hard to deal with - sometimes making it near impossible to sleep until WAY into the morning.  I have a neck/shoulder tick that I do (had that one a long time) that makes me flex/scrunch the muscles in my shoulder and neck really hard. Sometimes that can cause bad headaches for me – but I have very strong and lean muscles there…haha. My vocal tic is usually the last one I get as my Tourette's ramps up and signals me that I am VERY overrun with chemicals in my system.

4. Sometimes Symptoms change. I have a whole set of symptoms that can come and go. At extreme times, I exhibit several at once. Most of the time, however, I have 1-2 going on at any one time. Sometimes I have ones that disappear completely and sometimes I get new ones, depending on if I have extreme behavior with my body. For instance, I am on a computer all the time and use a mouse A LOT. I have developed a tic in my right wrist that involves flexing the muscle and moving the wrist down and to the side. Over a day, that one can tire the muscle pretty bad.

5. We also have a hard time getting to sleep sometimes (as much a problem with TS as ADHD)
I usually go to sleep between 12am and 2am. I probably go to bed before midnight maybe half a dozen times in a month. Maybe. And life certainly doesn’t allow for sleeping in these days. You’ll notice that I am writing this at 12:40am and by the time I finish it (editing, revision, etc) will be probably 1:15-1:30 am. This is normal for me.

6. Tics are virtually impossible to stop. It is like holding your breath. Doesn’t last long. I have worked A LOT to try and learn to control mine. But it has to be a very conscience thing and it is very difficult to do consciously. Sometimes I still can’t do it even when trying.

7. Meditation and relaxation is great for me. The conscious effort of meditation and practiced relaxation helps me calm down and relax my symptoms. How long it lasts depends on how life is going at the moment.

8.  Physical exercise is VERY helpful – get me out running and playing and my symptoms drop off the map while I play and help during the time in between.

9. Food matters. What you eat definitely affects your symptoms. And we’re learning more and more about this.

10. Physical touch can help. Gentle touch and massage can help my body slow down and relax. Amy (my wife) sometimes will rub my hand when my symptoms are bad, to help me calm down and fall asleep at night. In general, soft physical touch helps my body relax. It may not work for everyone.

11. You may not have noticed my Tourette’s because I have learned to hide it very well in my body movements and talking, etc. But it’s there. And I don’t mind if you notice or say something about it. Please, talk about it if you are curious, or for any reason, really. Just don’t use it to make fun of me or anyone else that has TS. I am bigger and meaner and stronger than most of you…haha. And you certainly don’t want to see what Tourette’s looks like angry, right?! Think Hulk + Tasmanian devil. HAHA – just kidding. Sort of. Or am I?! hmmm…

Ok, very long post, I know. But here is the conclusion…

When I think of my children having Tourette’s and knowing they will struggle with some of the same things I have, makes me sorrowful. I love my children and wish they didn’t have to experience this kind of difficulty – especially one that might make them targets of ridicule and heart-ache and even physical pain. It makes me very emotional to think about that. But, I am confident I can help them through it and see the beauty of the harmony of opposites, because, there are amazing things that can come with Tourette’s. The same things that make me have difficulty can also give me great advantage and will give my children gifts that are amazing! Perhaps I will address this in my next post.

For now, I embrace my Tourette’s and while it brings plenty of challenges, I keep on moving forward, I pick myself up when I need to, and I keep on ticking – literally.

THANKS to the National Tourette Syndrome Association for having information readily available to find and share!

Friday, March 15, 2013


There are some words in the English language that when used, arouse strong reactions from the receiver of those words. Hypocrite is perhaps one of the most hated of these words. When used against you, it is a terrible dagger that attempts to discredit and shame you. When used by you, it is your weapon to do the same in return. And, no matter if it is true or not, just to have someone call you a hypocrite leaves a bad feeling in you. It is as if the word has some magical power in it that creates a dark spot inside you. And how do you defend it? It's difficult, right?!

So I have given a lot of thought about this word. Not too long ago, I got into long discussion with a friend from my late teens. He and I had attended church together, played basketball together, sang together, and in general, had spent a lot of time together as good friends. We supported each other and wanted the success of the other. And then here we were, years later, having a very tough discussion about religion and the sentiments of our younger years had changed drastically.

Since those days, I had moved away and we didn't see or hear from each other for many years. Facebook became a great vehicle for finding lost friends, like this one. We connected there and reminisced. His story was very different than mine. He had left our church, joined the military, and in general had become quite angry and bitter toward religion. He wasn't just an atheist now, he was actively anti-religion.

It was hard to read his posts, sometimes multiple times daily, that insulted the religious and campaigned against it. He found a way to blame every bad and tragic thing in history on religion. It was not just hard because I am very religious, but because I had grown up in the Church with him and knew of his spirit back then - a good spirit that was fun-loving and sincere. He used to be a young man with hope and kindness and love for his religion and for God. I know this because I had heard him testify of his knowledge of God and His goodness on numerous occasions. And now he had pushed that all out and the softness of his soul that used to be so obvious, was gone.

Instead, his tone was angry, bitter, condescending, insulting, and hurtful. Worse, he had taken such a strong stance against it, that he couldn't even spare me his insults and criticisms. he couldn't just be happy that I was happy and living my life as a good citizen.

So finally, we were in this long, tough discussion in which I confronted him about the whole issue, wondering why he would so openly attack things he knew were sacred to me and that ultimately helped me be a better person. He was very defensive and quickly turned to his normal insulting, critical, and condescending approach. It didn't go very well. There was nothing I could say and so I stopped talking (chatting in Facebook) and he ranted for a long time, ending with this last phrase...

"I show kindness to people who deserve it. People who spend their time and tithing dollars on restricting the liberty of others while enjoying their own don't deserve kindness. They deserve pity at best."

I was stunned that a meaningful friendship from before could become so broken because my friend had decided to believe something different.

Well, in that conversation, I was called delusional, self-righteous, and lastly, a hypocrite. Hypocrite…ugh…not that word.

I’ve had many atheist and anti-religious friends over the years. And for some reason, that word always comes up. Hypocrisy.

Why is it that the non-religious somehow seem to think that hypocrisy is the exclusive problem of the religious? That word becomes their way of making an argument when they can’t win an argument with their logic set against someone who accepts a completely different set of truths.

What I want to say is that 1) hypocrisy is really a very misused word, 2) It is not exclusive to one group or belief sets, and 3) hypocrisy is a terrible word, because hypocrisy is in itself, terrible.

1)     Hypocrisy is a misused word

A lot of times, hypocrisy is used to describe when someone does something contrary to what they say they believe. In the way it is commonly used, if I say I don’t believe in lying, but then I lie – I would be a hypocrite.

BUT, that is actually not true – and that is not what hypocrisy is.

Wikipedia does a good job of summarizing what it actually means:

“Hypocrisy is the state of promoting or trying to enforce standards, attitudes, lifestyles, virtues, beliefs, principles, etc., that one does not actually hold.”

Notice, it isn’t about whether I DO what I say I believe. It is about saying I believe something and promoting that belief when in fact I don’t actually believe it.

So, just because a person can’t always act the way they believe and promote, doesn’t make them a hypocrite. It only makes them Human and imperfect like all of us.

2)     It is not exclusive to any group or belief set

Viewing our new found understanding of the word, it is easy to see how the term can be applied to anyone and any group. But I honestly think true hypocrisy is rarer than the word is used – at least among most of us. Most of us have true beliefs that we sometimes have a hard time living up to. That’s kind of what life is all about. I mean, Christ has asked us to be perfect even as He is. And I believe that we should be. But I promise you that I will fail to be perfect – yet that doesn’t make me a hypocrite, because I really do believe it and I am actively trying to live up to those beliefs. The need to repent is not a sign of hypocrisy.

3)     It is a truly terrible thing

So this brings us to the reason I wrote this post…

Hypocrisy truly is a terrible thing. Why? Because it is a deliberate lie. It is saying and promoting something in order to manipulate something or someone. It is the act of using a belief to accomplish perhaps the opposite of that belief. That is a truly bad and terrible thing.

So my friend…I unfriended him in Facebook and I haven’t heard from him since. Part of me still hurts that it occurred as it did. But, I have to live in positive circles and surround myself with people who at the least can respect me and my beliefs – even while completely disagreeing with them.

I’ll agree that there have been many hypocrites in history related to religion…but…

don’t you see the irony in my friend’s argument now?

Even if Hitler or Stalin were religious…if they were hypocrites (which is what non-religious folks often say), then by definition, they weren’t truly religious – remember, hypocrites proclaim and promote beliefs that they don’t actually hold. Nice irony, eh?!

Also, notice that he said I deserved no kindness because I used my resources to restrict the rights of others while protecting mine (paraphrasing).  But by campaigning against religion, isn’t he also then saying I shouldn’t have the right to believe what I want? Couldn’t I believe in the Almighty Rubber Duck and build a temple to the duck and promote yellow and still be within my rights?

You see, he says that he believes all should have rights, but really believes only the rights he agrees with, right? Isn’t that kind of like…hypocrisy?

Well, lest I sound too critical of my friend and angry toward him, let me close with this…

I still love my friend. I will always try to remember him as a happy, kind, and complimenting young man. It saddens me that we couldn’t find a way to have a real dialogue about life. And in the end, I do believe hypocrisy is a terrible thing. Honestly, I think the tragedy in this story is that my friend is a victim of hypocrisy. You see, somewhere deep inside himself, there is that small light still there, like a spot he can’t get rid of. It reminds him of when he felt that burning that he still can’t explain. It reminds him of love of all, and love of God, which I know he once felt.

Perhaps the worst part of hypocrisy is when you can’t see it, when it deceives you to the point where you even forget who you truly are.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Boy Scouts and Gays Membership

I've been thinking about writing this for a long while. Sometimes I guess you just need time till an idea settles enough and your feelings are balanced enough to where writing things like this are ok.
To be clear up front, I mean no ill intent or insult or offense to anyone with what I write here. This is simply my thoughts on a difficult subject. Also, those who know me best will know that nothing I write nor any opinion that I hold sways my love for other people, regardless of how they believe or act. All people are God’s children to me and my brothers and sisters. Some are harder to love than others at times, but I do love them all. This said, let’s talk…

I grew up in the Boy Scouts of America. I participated in Scouting beginning at age 8 as a Cub Scout and continued on, rank by rank, year by year, till I achieved the rank of Eagle in 1991. Eagle is the highest rank you can achieve as a Boy Scout and it is a difficult thing to earn. I was 16 when I earned mine. Although my progression in Scouting ranks ended then, I continue to be proud to be a Boy Scout and have served since as an assistant Scout master and as a Scout Master and as a merit badge counselor for other Scouts.
Scouts is one of the sweetest experiences and most influential activities I participated in and continues to influence and guide me. 

There is no wonder why every young man would want to participate equally with others and why every father wouldn't want to also share that experience with their sons. In fact, that sentiment hits very close to home for me. My father spent a full week of his limited time off one summer to go on a 50 mile backpacking trip in Lassen national Park when I was 15. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had with my father and I am very grateful for his sacrifice and personal attention to me during that week.

So, when the issue of Gays as members of Scouts began to arise and swell as a controversy, I thought long and hard about the different arguments about it, and reached some conclusions that I think are not being addressed enough – especially by those for allowing gays in the Boy Scouts.

First, The Boy Scouts of America is a private organization and the US Supreme court has upheld their right to not allow gays into their organization. I agree with that ruling. Our constitution and our Country’s whole foundation is built on rights of ownership, privacy, and separation of church and state. It is a foundation built on allowing people to have their own beliefs and organizations. I think it very important that we preserve those rights and that a private organization such as BSA should be able to restrict membership in this way.

Second, I do not believe this is a gay rights issue. There is no right where there is no right – and the Supreme court has already upheld that there is no “right” to join a private organization. If there were, then they could force a church, for example, to baptize a person into their church who clearly was not obeying the conditions of what the baptism requires, etc.

Third, I DO believe this is an issue of appropriateness, safety, and attraction. Stick with me here…
It seems to me that gay advocates sometimes tend to act as if gays do not suffer from the same human frailties as heterosexuals and that somehow because they are gay, they are perhaps “harmless”, or above the terrible things heterosexuals do. It is a subtle thing, but I think if you take time to think about it, you will see in media and in the argument for gay rights, that there is a certain “righteousness” assigned to gays.

The fact is, however, that gays are still (obviously) sexual beings. And, if they truly want equal treatment, then they should have to adhere to equal reasoning with their sexuality. What do I mean? Well, take your school gym classes, for instance. Would you want your male gym teacher hanging around in the girls’ locker room? Of course not. The idea is a scary one, right? Well, WHY is that scary and wrong? Because you know that men who are heterosexual, have attractions to females and female bodies. Those attractions are very strong and can influence even some good men to do terrible things – meaning that there is a chance that they will act on that attraction and cause harm to your young female child.

So tell me…are gay people immune to such powerful attractions?  Are they immune to making such mistakes? No. Of course not. But I think sometimes our media and the gay community attempt to paint themselves as such. They would never claim Jerry Sandusky and others like him to be part of their “gay community”. No, they are just predators. Yes, they are predators and bad people. However, they obviously had gay attractions that they could not resist and control.

When a heterosexual man abuses a young girl, I also want to separate myself from the idea that I could be the same as he is. And in some ways I am the same – I surely have physical attractions and impulses. However, I have trained my mind and body and emotions over many years to control those impulses and even put them quickly away or even never consider them. How do I do this? I protect myself by preparing structure/habits in my life that teach me to think differently, to have control over my flesh, and to spiritually fill myself with light that does not allow in troubling thoughts and feelings. I have trained with scriptures, experience, repentance, and other important tools that help me be now very different from those men who do such bad things.

But how do we protect our children when they are away from us? How do we protect our “community”? In the same way. We create structures and rules and habits that prevent situations from occurring where such terrible things could occur. We create ways where such events could never even happen (at least that is the hope).

The Boy Scouts of America just happens to be one organization that has unfortunately experienced some terrible things within its ranks. The Boy Scouts did not make those things happen. Our whole nation, for many years has been ignorant and slow to act against crimes against children and women – especially cases of abuse and such. We see tragedy in many places – schools, churches, and sports teams. These are very visible organizations and places, so they tend to be publicized and prosecuted heavily for not protecting their members, their players, their students. It is unfortunate when the acts of individuals betray the very values and mission of the organization and cause such harm to the direct victims and the indirect victims (other members, etc).

So we see these organizations react and work to protect. Trust me, I have witnessed the many, many changes in the Boy Scouts to help both protect the Scouts and the organization. Not so they stay out of trouble (although it helps), but because they want to preserve something valuable for those who still want to participate. They have seen the benefit of what they provide to people just like me and they want to continue providing that for others – because it does make a difference.

So now the gay community wants to participate in Scouting. I understand. I really do. Scouts is awesome. But, if we consider the reasoning of what it means to be gay, then I would say it should not and cannot be allowed to happen. Being gay means to have same-sex attraction. Just like a heterosexual man is attracted to a woman, a gay man is attracted to a man. Just like a heterosexual man could be a sexual predator in a girls’ locker room, a gay man is then also a potential predator in a men’s locker room. It is an issue of attraction. I don’t want my young sons in a locker room with young women. NO WAY. Why? Is it because they are girls? Well, yes. But anatomy is not the problem – attraction, and the weakness of flesh IS!

The fact is, we never know WHO is going to be a predator, who is going to simply make a terrible choice and be susceptible to strong sexual impulses. So we put rules in place. We separate by attraction – not by anatomy – that’s just been the normal argument. Let’s face it, Adam and Eve did not even know they were naked in the Garden of Eden (for those here who are religious) until they were allowed to fall and could be tempted by their flesh and such.

Anyway, regardless of religion/beliefs, this issue is about safety of our children. It is about creating buffers between the weakness of men (all men) and our children. If we allow gays to participate in scouts, mixing with other boys, then you are essentially mixing them with young women, which would be inappropriate at those ages.

So, if the argument is about equality, then lets argue true equality based on the truth of the matter. This is NOT about sexual preference as if that were simply a skin color or heritage. It is a sexual attraction issue. Period.

I get that the argument could be made that the same rules that keep boys safe now would keep them safe with gays in the organization, but it would certainly greatly raise the likelihood of an issue – just like mixing a girl or two into a troop would.

Ultimately, I think BSA will allow each chartered group to decide for themselves what they will allow, but I would not be in favor of it – and not because I don’t want gays to participate in Scouts, but because I want to protect my own sons and the Scouting program that I know. I am afraid that the raised risk would eventually be too costly to manage.

I am sure that there are more complex issues at work here and other arguments that could be made, but for me, it is simple.

My stance is not because I am homophobic. Not at all. I am afraid – or rather concerned and aware of the power of sexual attraction – of any orientation. And to pretend that a gay person is not as sexually motivated or influenced as someone else is to tell a lie, and I am a Scout, And Scouts are honest.