Saturday, October 31, 2009

Best Financial Investment With Guaranteed 100% Plus Return

As the topic of mission work seems to find its way into every conversation in my house, the idea that preparation is key is definitely at the forefronts of every one's mind. Spiritual, mental, and physical preparation are all essential to a full-time missionary-in-the-making. But all else aside, an issue that we can't deny is the financial obligation.

From the very beginning, my parents informed me they would not be fronting the cash for my mission. Not because they didn't love me, or want me to serve; but simply because, when I work for something and earn it for myself, I would surely appreciate that much more. I was told that I was to find a job (or two or three) and to raise the money.
My mom said, "Although you should be focused on school, you're going to have to find a job or even two in order to raise the money." I have dabbled in various odd jobs including creating tattoo designs for friends and plenty of "suspect / too easy" job opportunities from members in my ward, such as mowing lawns, helping with home remodels, walking dogs, babysitting, etc. I am grateful for every opportunity and all the creativity that members in my ward have come up with to help contribute financially to my mission fund.

If you've been tuned in from the start, you'll recall my occupation in which I'm making TONS of dough...literally. For those of you tuning in here at half-time, my jobs involves plenty of dough, just not the kind I want to keep in my wallet, or anywhere else for that matter. I'm a teenage pizza boy at Little Caesar's Pizza in Eagan. At first, I figured sure I'll do my thing there for a year or so and raise most of the money for my mission. I had it all figured out. With my $7.25/hr minimum wage, if I worked 5 days a week at about 5-6 hours a shift, I'd be making $217.50 a week, which meant $435 a check, which meant $870 a month, which meant that when I put my papers in, in March 2010, I'd have about $11,300 EASILY. Those of you who have ANY life experience are probably on the ground by now rolling in laughter.

Of course, real life set in. In May, I tore the ligament in my knee playing rugby. That took me out of work for almost 2 months. Graduation came along and quickly following that, adulthood. I must say, adulthood itself hit me like a freight train. All of sudden, my checks were disappearing before I could even get through my singing of "money, money, money, MONEY.....MONEY!! It's a rich man's world."

Medical bills, cell phone bill, school tuition, school books, lab fees, gas, groceries for me and Ferron's weird diets, co-pays for doctor visits. Then there are all the "gifts" mom and dad USE to pay for but now I was on my own - clothes, shoes, entertainment, hanging out with my friends, you know the stuff all teens think are important to be sociable and happening until you see the price tag and realize those items now brought you happy yet fading memories. Oh and did I mention Uncle Sam taking his cut of my checks before the ink was printed on paper? The road to riches was accumulating plenty of potholes with quite a quickness.

This is where the principle of tithing kicks in. Give a tenth to the Lord, and He lets the blessings rain down. It's a beautiful thing. It's a 100% guaranteed return on investment. Returns unheard of and illogical in these financially unstable economic times. So here are some blessings that come from implementing some basic Gospel principles in my own life:

1 - Have Faith. Believe that our Heavenly Father will guide your life. You just have to follow.
2 - Honor thy mother and thy father.
3 - Honesty in paying my tithing.
4 - Be honest and diligent in the work you do. It's NOT what you do, but how you do it.
5 - Educate yourself.

"true education seeks to make men and women not only good mathematicians, proficient linguists, profound scientists, or brilliant literary lights, but also, honest men, with virtue, temperance, and brotherly love. It seeks to make men and women who prize truth, justice, wisdom, benevolence, and self-control as the choicest acquisitions of a successful life." President David O. McKay

For the past few weeks, my manager has been asking me all kinds of weird questions about things in the store, and bringing up random hypothetical situations to solve.

"How many ounces of cheese go on a large pizza? How many pepperoni's go on a deep dish? How many ounces of dough do you use to make cheese bread? How much would it cost me, with tax, if I wanted a pizza with mushroom, black olives, and onions?"

Eventually, he got around to asking whether I'd be comfortable being more than a team member. Of course, I excitedly replied yes. Then, he told me that the regional manager was going to be coming in to interview me for a key staff position. Key staff, although having a cooler name, not to mention the dazzling orange shirts as opposed to the normal black ones, was not much more than the day manager or "Number 1 Team Member". I was still excited though. I felt like at least my hard work was being recognized and that's always good.

I threw on a clean apron and straightened up my name tag in preparation for the 'big boss' to be impressed when he comes to interview me. It was the snazziest look I could muster up since I had to be in work attire.
It's 5 P.M. It's the middle of our dinner rush and in walks a man holding a clipboard and file that read "Eagan Mgmt. 013". I greet him with a smile and firm, steady handshake. I make eye contact and was sure to compliment his shoes. He told me about how he started out just like me working at McDonald's straight out of high school and eventually progressing to how he and his business partner now own all of the Little Caesars' in the Twin Cities Area. Of course, a few corny jokes were shed on both sides, which kept the mood pretty light.

Then he started talking to me about the Key staff position and all the responsibilities that go along with it. He said that they don't usually give out management to kids in school for the obvious reason that school should probably there first priority. But, in one simple sentence after 45 mins of talking about all the roles of a key staff, he said..."We're not going to give you the key staff position." For a moment, all my hopes and aspirations, most of which were pertaining to my $2 and change pay raise were completely shut down. I swallowed the lump in my throat and still a bit confused ... he then continued to say, "We're just going to bypass that altogether and make you a manager."

Sure it would not be an impressive accomplishment to some big shot in corporate America, YET, but we all start our humble beginnings somewhere. I try to apply everything I learn from church daily and I have been rewarded for it.

This has definitely been a testimony builder for me as far as applying our Gospel knowledge and knowing that FAITH and DILIGENCE rewards. I asked faithfully and our Heavenly Father provided. I pay my tithing honestly and I am rewarded abundantly for it.

1 Nephi 3:7
"And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them"

I have opened my heart to be filled with gratitude for blessings, small and many.
Always constant and when I need them and often when I don't expect them. Heavenly Father grants me humility through daily vicissitudes as I prepare to do His work.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Teachings From My Leaders

It has taken me a couple of weeks to take in all the genuine talks I was privileged to listen to during General Conference and also by the Bishopric of my ward last week. Certainly an exalted month for sincere and direct messages to our members. I took time to ponder over the guidance given to us by our church leaders and as usual, I realize the words are chosen to be thoughtful, yet pack a powerful punch. There is no mistaking of a double standard in their meaning and the only option I found in their counsel is that you were either going to follow instruction by our Heavenly Father or you could choose not to. General Conference is filled with ALL great talks and messages. I want to write about one of my personal favorites by our Prophet and President of the Church, Thomas S. Monson titled "What Have I Done For Someone Today?" I wanted to interject my personal feelings of what I took away from his talk.

"My brothers and sisters, we are surrounded by those in need of our attention, our encouragement, our support, our comfort, our kindness—be they family members, friends, acquaintances, or strangers. We are the Lord’s hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children. He is dependent upon each of us.

You may lament: I can barely make it through each day, doing all that I need to do. How can I provide service for others? What can I possibly do?"

- President Thomas S. Monson, General Conference Oct 2009

President Monson's counsel is to give freely of what we already own outright; our time, talents, love and compassion. When you immerse yourself willingly in the service of others and have only the intentions to do good works for anyone other than yourself, you are truly serving yourself first.

How so you might ask?

In every human there is a need to belong, be comforted and be loved. Many who are of the world may say, they need no one. They are fine by themselves. They don't need anyone to help them or befriend them and I would say to that person, selfishness has the need for comfort and attention as well. Those statements in itself are cries for human compassion and more than likely, companionship. For how would you know you don't want the feeling to have friendship, comfort and love if it is not a sweet emotion you've felt before and now fester in your bitterness that is self created because it is what you long for in your life? I say it is NOT possible to thrive successfully in this world and obviously not in the life after with our Heavenly Father without the need to give and receive love, comfort and compassion to others and also to yourself.

If you are a member of the church, this talk for me goes hand in hand with the law of consecration found in D&C 42:32;51:3.
How do you go about receiving love and comfort, compassion and friendship from others?
Do you open your heart humbly to "good" people that can teach you how to be a positive and a better person?
Do you speak and act in a kind manner towards people teaching them that you expect the same in return?
Do you surround yourself with POSITIVE people?
Are you selfless in your actions and know NOT to expect anything in return?
Are you a steward in the service of our Heaven Father?
Do you give honestly of yourself in your callings?
Do you fulfill your monthly Home teaching or Visiting teaching assignments?
Have you considered the lives of those you could be helping if you were NOT so self absorbed?
Do you create an environment of service and volunteering on a regular basis in your own home and community?
Are YOU sincere in your need to follow our Savior's example and give your time and efforts to help someone in need?
Do you ever think to put yourself in the place of another?

If you recognize yourself as a person who does these things, your life must feel so extremely blessed. Every time you are immersed in acts of kindness, you will notice there is no time to complain or be negative. You will see there is no need to dwell on things that are trivial in your own life because you will recognize and count your many blessings. When you give so openly of yourself in the service of others, you are given the opportunity to enrich your own life by creating a positive environment where respectable friendships can flourish through exchanges of considerate words while providing a kind act. What a great way to spend your time and make new friends. Even the most cynical person can soften their heart in a positive environment.

The choice to do something good daily is just that - a choice. The way you view your own life is of your choosing as well. Are you someone who views the glass as half full or half empty? If you are someone who views your life or daily situations as half empty, have you done anything good for anyone today? The benefits to serving others are immediately visible to you most times. One can say the benefits of service or a good deed erases the need to utter negative thoughts, refrain from destructive behavior and emotions such as, but not limited to, selfishness, depression, idleness, loneliness and despair. How can these negative things coincide with doing good for someone? Small or grand acts of kindness for others should be your guide to building your character. The legacy you want to leave for yourself should be who you really are striving to be. I am not sure of anyone who strives to be the most selfish person to have ever lived but I can only imagine that the person who lives doing nothing for others must be very lonely for the companionship of a friend and more importantly, the spirit of the Holy Ghost for guidance and comfort.

Mosiah 2:17
"And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God"

I felt overwhelmed since school started for me this semester. I felt pressured to do the best I possibly could in my classes since by my own procrastination, I awarded myself with less than what I have always known I was capable of. I complicated my own college beginnings by working many hours to prepare financially for my mission and to pay for college. I live at home, so I knew being in my household, my parents would expect the same amount of work around the house from me and probably more since I am officially an adult now. I spend a large chunk of my time doing homework from school and actually studying scriptures and church manuals, books and talks in preparation of my mission. When I was asked to be a Primary teacher, I thought I didn't have time to fit in a lesson for 9 year olds. I'm too busy. I knew from my upbringing there would also be no way to turn this calling down. I knew that accepting my calling was my small contribution in keeping our church running smoothly. I was informed around that same time, I would be volunteering with my father to help coach my sister's fourth grade volleyball team.

I had choices to make. I could accept both positions and do the best I possibly could or I could think of myself ONLY and just do what I had to do to keep myself afloat. I knew from personal experience that to be self serving was NEVER in my best interest. I also knew from preparing for my mission that I didn't want to let any negative thoughts fester for even a little bit and I gave in willingly knowing I would have the Spirit to keep me on track. I would have a support team of my family, the Bishopric, the Priesthood holders and the Primary leadership and teachers who were in the same position as I was and all these people were only a conversation away from helping me out. I had a whole support team and because I was willing to give of myself, these same people would be willing to give to me as well. Volleyball season was smooth and successful and Primary is teaching me so many different lessons still.

How can you do good for someone today?

President Monson revealed in his talk,
"Just over a year ago, I was interviewed by the Church News prior to my birthday. At the conclusion of the interview, the reporter asked what I would consider the ideal gift that members worldwide could give to me. I replied, “Find someone who is having a hard time or is ill or lonely, and do something for him or her."

Volunteerism is the motor that keeps our church up and running. Our whole church system is run by layman that volunteer their services to keep millions of people active in drawing nearer to the Lord. Men and women who aren't perfect but give the best of themselves to keep the church organized. President Obama has asked that people volunteer their time and talents in their communities and to causes bigger than themselves. Stop waiting for things to change from others and make the changes you think would benefit your own communities by serving others. I am glad that our President recognizes that by giving willingly of yourself is the way YOU help shape the world you live in. If you give nothing, won't you reap what you sow?

I love the Relief Society and what good works they do to uplift the spirit of men and their Sisters alike. They give cards, meals and companionship to those in need. They let their gift of woman's intuition and stay in tune with the Spirit to guide their hearts to say kind and uplifting words and recognize who is in need. These sisters seek the power of prayer to best help their hearts find humility and do what the Lord expects them to do. In my ward alone, I am in awe of the many college educated Sisters that walk in faith and choose to stay home and raise their children first and then those Sisters who stay in the work field and though exhausted, use their last bit of energy to let their families know, her first priority is in the home. Although their schedules are full and tiresome, they find ways to serve their families, serve in church and serve their communities. These are the places doing good for someone enrich a faithful Sister's life just as much as the people they serve.

The thoughtful child that makes cards for soldiers that serve in our military or sings songs to entertain the elderly. The child who implements kind acts in their home because of a Primary lesson. They are raised up in ways to put the needs of others and for a short time, forget about themselves. These selfless acts are ways we can help our children learn respect and be thoughtful of others. I believe children are taught bad behaviors as well as good ones. Wouldn't teaching a child to perform any good deeds daily promote temperance?

Just because you do good deeds and serve others does not mean you are perfect. As humans, were flawed. The amazing thing about service is that you find out through doing good daily for others, your problems don't seem to be so major. Good deeds do not have to be grand gestures. Small acts of random kindness work just as well. The key is to be mindful daily of someone in more need than yourself.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

LDS Humor

You might be Mormon if ...

… all your dishes have your name written on them with masking tape.
… you postdate your checks while shopping on Sunday.
… you believe Heck is the place for the people who do not believe in gosh.
… your mom was pregnant at your sister’s wedding reception.
… you think Jell-O is one of the basic food groups.
… at least one of your salad bowls is at a neighbor’s house.
… you’ve ever written a “Dear-John” to more than two missionaries at the same time.
… yo
u were frustrated when your son “only” got accepted to Harvard.
… you have one kid in diapers and one on a mission.
… you have never arrived at a meeting on time.
… you have more wheat stored in your basement than most third world countries.
… you’ve already got your order for volume 50 of “The Work and The Glory”.
… you think it is all right to watch football on Sundays as long as a direct descendant of Brigham Young is playing
… you have to guess more than five times the name of the child you’re disciplining.
… you arrive to an activity and hour late and you are the first one there.
... if you've ever referred to a friend as your "Companion."
... if you have ever inadvertently addressed your boss or coworkers as brother or sister.
... if you have ever blessed cake, cookies or donuts saying, "Please bless this food that it will strengthen and nourish our bodies."
... if you have ever used the phrase "With every fiber of my being."
... if you have something stuck to your refrigerator for every time you have attended Relief Society.
... if you have geese or cow decorations anywhere in your kitchen.
... if you think toys are a normal part of any landscaping.
... if you've ever refused a coke although it's 105 degrees outside.
... if you have ever called your Bishop "Heavenly Father" when having a meeting with him over your problems.
... you know what Mormon standard time means and arrive a 1/2 hour late
... received baby clothes at a bridal shower and didn't need them, but you were really excited to get them
... if you have to lock your car in the church parking lot to keep it from being filled with zucchini, tomatoes, and egg plants
... if you've ever used the words: fetch, flip, dang, crud, shoot or oh-my-heck.
... if while teaching a lesson in Relief Society meeting, you've ever apologized for not preparing a center piece.
... if, while teaching a lesson in Priesthood meeting, you've ever apologized for not preparing a lesson
... you know the home teachers will visit the last day of the month
... if the employees at the local scrap booking and/or craft store know your first name
... you have actually eaten funeral potatoes
... somewhere in your family tree is a polygamist
... you have a bumper stick that says 'families can be together forever'
... you were an aunt or uncle before you were 3
... your spouses mother was pregnant at your wedding
... your family considers a trip to McDonalds a night out
... you consider a temple recommend a credit reference
... at least 2 of your salad bowls are at homes of your neighbors
... there's a similarity between a ward basketball game and an LA riot
... you think Jack Daniels is a country singer
... you can make jell-o salad without a recipe
... you've heard about a BYU game in a testimony meeting
... you have at least 2 gallons of ice cream in the freezer at all times
... almost every girlfriend you know owns a minivan or a huge SUV
... you make a toast with red punch or sparkling apple cider at your wedding
... you have more raw wheat stored than some third world countries
... your idea of a wild party is a six pack of root beer and a PG-13 movie
... you think "your a 10 cow wife" is a compliment
... if you have more than one Ward Cookbook in your collection.
... if you dressed up as the pioneer children and walked and walked and walked to get to a pioneer picnic...
... if you can spell Genealogy correctly
... if one of the cookbook in your collection is titled, "100 Jello Recipes"
... if you have received a business solicitation from a salesman who is using the ward list as a call sheet
... if you have difficulty calling your old Bishop by his first name after he has been released.
... you know someone who turned down MIT for a scholarship at BYU
... Every time you meet a non-Mormon, their parents are 12 years older than yours.
... you know that the Word of Wisdom just applies to "hot drinks," so Diet Coke is 100% OK or you know that the Word of Wisdom applies to ALL Caffeine, so Diet Coke is NOT OK.
... you have a cousin who tried to go on 31 dates with 31 different girls in August.
... you shock and awe non-Mormons by telling them about how many people you know who were married within a year of getting back from their missions
... you expect to hear people begin any kind of public speech with "So I was in my garden, and Bishop so-and-so came walking by. I tried to hide, but it was too late..."
... you've dated a girl whose mom cared more about whether or not you were going on a mission than whether or not you were going to college
... you've ever had a really really awkward object lesson about the law of chastity
... you've ever had one of your neighbors spontaneously drop off an entire well cooked dinner because they heard you were having a tough week
... you actually GET these jokes and share them with the rest of your ward friends.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

LDS News From American Samoa

At the Leone, American Samoa chapel

Food distribution for the Volunteer Relief workers in Leone

This is from my Aunt Mitzi Semo an LDS member in Aloau, American Samoa, who is also helping in the LDS clean up efforts of the destroyed villages:

"I woke up feeling extreme sorrow for those who lost loved ones yesterday and families who slept in strange beds because theirs were washed away. But then, the sun came up and I marveled at its light, knowing that this would be the start of a good day."

LDS News From Western Samoa

Malaela Village - no more

Malaela Village - an all LDS village

Lalomanu Village - no more. Workers looking for bodies.

Lalomanu Village - completely leveled

LDS church building in Malaela - Samoa (Western)

Malaela - Samoa (Western) LDS village tent set up

Pesenga LDS clothing donations that will be distributed

Pesega Stake helping to collect and distribute donations

Makeshift homes for at Malaela Hill for the LDS members whose village is completely gone

LDS members new living quarters until the re-build

This update is from my relative in Utah, Larissa Tuinei. She is getting LDS updates from her uncle who lives in Samoa (Western):

"Today is hot, hotter than than the first 2 days. We are continuing to haul water to the saints and others. Church members are camping in 5 different areas high up the hills. One is in Saleapaga, one in Lalomanu, 2 in Malaela and one in Leagiagi or Saleaumua. We are now setting up our own control post at the Leagiagi chapel where we are offering counseling services and a control point of distribution of immediate needs for them. Outside help from NZ and Australia are now arriving and hopefully it will be sent to these needed people soon. The Church has now approved a plane load of food (rice, sugar, hygienic etc water..) coming in from SLC hopefully within the next few days as they are negotiating for a plane now. I think once those come in it will greatly ease the suffering physically, but emotionally it will remain with our people for a long long time.

I know American Samoa is going through the same trauma, but they are in good hands with the US extending a big hand to help them. Here in poor Samoa its all depending on the handouts from families and from other governments. The Lalomanu and Malaela are the worst hit area, in fact there is no Malaela standing. The only building standing in the whole village is part of the stake president's home and the damaged chapel. Remember this village has only one religion and that is LDS, so all the casualties in the village are mostly members of the Church if not all and are mostly related to the Purcells. So it is a very devastating effect to the Church and to the saints here.

People are now starting to bury their dead especially those that were found yesterday and today as they are starting to decomposed as our hospitals and government facilities are not adequate to handle these casea. As mentioned earlier, a member of my ward has lost her parents, a newphew whom they are still searching for, and a niece in the disaster. Lena/Vana you know of Segia--Nicholus mom, her mother is one of the victims of the tsunami, in fact in the 2 wards in Malaela there are about 15 deaths as of now and a few others in the other wards of Leagiagi and Vaovai. The total dead as it now stands at 110 but still counting. We are continuing to haul water and food up to the various camps and trying to provide them with some other means to use for sanitation, as well as some hygienic needs. These people only had what they wore on their bodies as they tried to run up to the bushes so it was pleasing to see them use a change of clothes from what we delivered yesterday. I think it will take a while for them to be in camps as the smell is very strong and could cause some health problems.

We are trying to organize a Mormon Helping Hands cleanup project from all the other stakes that were not affected hoping for a good turnout in the 1000. I think it would be great not only for the community but also as a missionary tool for the Church. The mission president is in favor of this too and has offered his missionaries to participate in it so it will be good PR for them too. I think with most of their basic needs such as food, clothing in place we can now move to try and help them rebuilt their lives physically and emotionally so they can move on. It will probably take a while but I know with faith they can do it."

In American Samoa news, we were listening to live Samoan Christian radio the other night before family prayer. Anyone from around the world can call in and let there family members know they are praying for them and thinking about them. My dad doesn't speak or understand Samoan asked, "What are they saying? They must be pretty upset."

Actually, that is never the case with the Samoan people. Every caller first takes time to thank the hosts for the opportunity to speak and then they let their family members know how much they love them and keep them in prayer. Most of the callers are thankful to God for the lives spared and ask that all the Samoans be thankful to the our Heavenly Father for the tragedy as well as the happiness they enjoy, for it is a part of His master plan. It is humbling to know that when most people are asking "Why?" after complete devastation, my Samoan people ask for everyone to "Pray."