Saturday, January 28, 2017

I Still Pray

I still pray. Mostly my prayers are expressions of gratitude, since gratitude doesn't expect God to do anything differently. My prayer requests are mostly just for myself, to muster the courage and will to do things I feel like I need/want to do for the benefit of my family and myself. I'm not much for closing in the name of Jesus Christ anymore. My experience and study have led my to a place where I believe that Jesus is just another name for the higher power that is sought out and appealed to in almost all religions. Every religion has their name(s) for God. Why should our name for God be more special or true than other religions'?

I have fewer answers these days, and more mystery and questions. I do not know why some people suffer, and others seem to escape suffering. I don't have a lot of tolerance these days for our leaders' threats, promises, and dogmatic exhortations, but occasionally they do have some keen insights, like Boyd K. Packer in his talk "The Choice":

"Some are tested by poor health, some by a body that is deformed or homely. Others are tested by handsome and healthy bodies; some by the passion of youth; others by the erosions of age.
"Some suffer disappointment in marriage, family problems; others live in poverty and obscurity. Some (perhaps this is the hardest test) find ease and luxury.
"All are part of the test, and there is more equality in this testing than sometimes we suspect" (Oct 1980).

But I don't believe anymore that life is a black-and-white, pass-fail "test." I do believe that we are here to have experiences, "good", "bad" (although I don't think we always categorize them correctly), and "other." And all our collective human choices and mortality along with natural phenomena and chance mix together to form the experiences and feelings that we do, in fact, have "the choice" to respond to. I believe in trying to choose joy, love, kindness, compassion, and encouragement in the face of what life brings us. I believe in trying to eschew fear and feelings of superiority, righteousness, and privilege over others. Our choices determine what kind of person we become, and what kind of soul we develop.

I am trying to cultivate goodness and love in myself. I have stopped trying to cultivate the self-sacrificing, be-a-martyr, perfect goodness of Jesus. I am not against sacrifice and martyrdom, but such choices should spring wholly out of the willing and unconditional love of the person making the sacrifice.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Love and Discipline

Those who devote themselves to love will find that discipline is involved. Paradoxically at times, this discipline will seem to hinder our ability to connect with another, to limit our love and service. So ideally, I think, this discipline needs to be flexible: soft on the outside, but with a firm core that retains its original integrity.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

My Ten Commandments

I've only come up with eight so far...
  1. Thou shalt love thyself as thy neighbor.
  2. Thou shalt not self-destruct.
  3. Thou shalt cease wrangling over religion and "Truth."
  4. Thou shalt not fear, hurt, demean, or kill those whose views and lifestyles are different from thine own, but thou shalt seek to understand them.
  5. Thou shalt cultivate a garden; in it shalt thou plant thankfulness, gratitude, patience, compassion, and trust in the grand designs of the universe.
  6. Thou shalt be a champion for the oppressed, the marginalized, and the disenfranchised.
  7. Thou shalt not isolate thyself, save it be for prayer, solace, and meditation.
  8. Thou shalt love thy spouse and thine offspring. What doth it benefit a person if she gains the whole world, but loses her own children?

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Little Mormon Apostle

There's a little Mormon apostle
inside my head. He says,
You didn't try hard enough; you didn't pray long enough.
You let Satan deceive you; you didn't endure to the end.
You knows it's true; we know truth by what we feel.
Read the Book of Mormon; it has all the answers.

I'm sorry, little apostle. I gave it my best.
Or maybe I didn't. Maybe you're right.
Maybe the answer was just around the corner, just a little farther,
and I ended up settling for a mess of pottage.

My life is a mess. Life is messy. All your answers
work for some, the Chosen Few. Meanwhile, Whatever-It-Is-That-Is-Out-There
continues to love me, and to bless me, and to help me.
She blesses the Buddhists; He tells the Muslims the Qu'ran is true.
He sends visions to the Baptists; She smiles on gay parents who love their children.
She cheers for the atheists trying to make the world a better place.

The Great White Shark and the tiny Forget-me-not
continue to eat and to bloom.
What horrors and what beauties does this Earth bring forth!
What wrenching agony and grief still lie ahead for me?
What peace and equanimity?

If the world is to end, let us go down believing in love,
in goodness, in helping each other up when we fall,
and in what brings us deep joy.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Talefolk™ - I Want You To Be Happy

"You know what I want for you more than anything?" he said. "I want you to be happy. Not fleeting, superficial happiness, but deep peace and lasting contentment that storm or tragedy might obscure but cannot destroy."

He went on. "Unfortunately, I feel that before you can have such happiness, you must have sadness first. Not just sadness but struggle, doubt, anguish, heartbreak, and pain - the whole gamut of human experience and emotion, I suppose. I wish it could be otherwise, but somehow - if you believe in love and help and happiness - you emerge from your difficulties and trials with a trust that life is beautiful, that healing is real (though it might take time), and that the sun will rise again for all tomorrow."

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Mormon Midlife Crisis No.1

As I work through my Mormon midlife crisis, I am resolved in two things:

  1. I do not want to be angry at or bitter towards the Church,
  2. I want to continue to believe in a loving God, who understands our struggles, and wants to help and bless us, and bear with us in our constant infirmities and shortfalls.

What is my first conclusion or tenet of my crisis? that God is hidden, as Isaiah 45:15 states. What does this mean?

  • God is all-powerful and all-knowing. None of us nor all of us collectively can surprise or shock Him. He knows the past and the future - time does not exist for God as it does for us. Nothing can frustrate his purposes or His plans.
  • God has ordained that this mortal existence be one of faith, meaning that regarding a) God's own existence, b) the nature/existence of life before and/or after mortality, and c) the purpose of this life, certainty and sure knowledge are extremely limited if not impossible. Since this is God's decree, no amount of human effort or knowledge can thwart it. There seem to be some who are granted special witnesses or mystical experiences that give them a measure of esoteric knowledge of these transcendent matters; in these cases, such experiences are highly personal, and are all but unable to be comprehended by others or verified by objective proof.
  • Some examples of God's hiddenness: the problem of pain; the problem of evil; religious scripture that paints God as vengeful, judgmental, condemning, harsh, and unforgiving; religious leaders who preach and reveal inspiring and uplifting concepts, but who themselves remain human, fallible, weak, mistake-prone, proud, arrogant, and less than morally upright and honestly forthright; and the general fact that God is not a visible, directly accessible and responsive personality in our lives, i.e. we do not see him, he does not speak to us as do the normally physically present people we associate with daily.

I fear that I may be already showing my weakness in my first resolution. I do not want to be angry or bitter, but I must say that my current crisis has arisen in large part due to personal religious questions that I feel my Mormon faith a) suppresses or discourages, b) has no answers to, and c) seems to require that I suspend my inquiry while continuing to believe and practice as though I had no questions or doubts.

I think what is boils down to is this: for years I have believed and exercised (imperfect) faith in and (far from perfect) obedience to the religious promises that the LDS Church taught and offered me. These efforts have brought both great blessings and great trials into my life. If understanding and applying religious principles about God should bring peace and comfort to my life, then misunderstanding and misapplying such principles seem to bring a converse measure of turmoil, strife, and anguish. I do not feel that I am any closer to answers or certainty. I confess some bitterness towards Church leaders and members who seem certain and claim knowledge of deity: who God is, what he expects of us, and what his thoughts and attitudes are towards us. I feel somewhat betrayed that despite all the promises and all the biblical stories of God communicating with man, the only communication that seems available to me are vague feelings and impressions that are very easy to doubt, very hard to trust, and very prone to being inaccurate.

But finally, I believe that, as a hidden God, he requires patience and searching on our part to find him. As a mortal, there are limits to my patience and my ability to persevere in things that I cannot see and cannot understand. I do not want to give up on God, but I am needing to find another way to exercise faith in him. Perhaps one that is more reasonable in my expectations, and is not so disappointed and does not feel so betrayed when understanding and answers do not come.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Faith: What I Believe Right Now

NOTE: References to "Church" below refer to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

DISCLAIMER: What I have written below represents my thinking at this point in time. I ask that you respect my right to change my thoughts, beliefs, and opinions at any time, as I go on learning and seeking for greater understanding.

One of my issues is the problem of binary or black-and-white thinking. It seems to me that the Christian scriptures themselves (Book of Mormon included) teach and promote this kind of thinking, which leads people to constantly judge or categorize the world and those around them as "good" or "bad," "righteous" or "sinful," "faithful" or not living up to their covenants.

My current perception of reality is not so conveniently simplistic. There are gay parents who love and sacrifice for their children and for each other, much more than some heterosexual parents do. There are people who become disenchanted with the Church, leave, and go on being honest, caring, decent people who contribute much to the world and to their communities. Some sick people in the Church receive priesthood blessings, and are not miraculously healed; some sick people of other faiths miraculously get better. And finally, the reverse of all these statements is also sometimes the case.

I guess that's where I am at: in an "I don't know" stage. I want to believe there is a God. If there is, he is certainly hidden as Isaiah 45:15 says. I want to believe in a God or power in the universe that loves us, and has sent us here to have experiences that help us grow. Sometimes there seem to be miraculous interventions in our lives from a higher power, but they are exceptional, uncommon, and personal, and can often be viewed or interpreted in a number of different ways. No religion can claim a monopoly on such experiences; they are present in all faiths and among all people and nations.

I believe in goodness, in loving, serving, supporting, encouraging, and respecting each other. I believe in forgiveness and compassion, for others and for ourselves. I believe in helping those who are marginalized and struggling; but I also believe that to completely remove their struggles from them, removes an important opportunity for growth in their lives.

I join with all organizations who value the special importance of families - all kinds of families. I believe in the special commitment and sacrifice that should exist between spouses, and towards their children. The family truly is the building block of civilization.

I believe that diversity must not only be tolerated but embraced and sought-after. If, out of fear of what is different, we lash out against or suppress that which we do not understand, or which makes us uncomfortable, or with which we are not familiar, we will trap ourselves inside a filter bubble that will cut ourselves off from others, and perhaps cause us to alienate or persecute them.

I believe that the powers of the Universe respect, notice, and reward work, dedication, and sacrifice. I believe that people should devote themselves to and work for what they love, believe in, and are passionate about. Balance and centeredness are also important. Leaders and organizations who inspire or persuade their followers into making great sacrifices and living with devotion to their precepts can accomplish amazing things, as well as terrible, atrocious things.

We need more leaders with integrity. We need to find and uphold people in our nation and our communities who care and who respect principles of liberty, responsibility, and compromise; who are apt to teach and empower rather than to use hostility, promises, and fear-mongering to gain power. And we need also to avoid worshiping these leaders, or setting them up as something other than they are: imperfect people just trying to do what they think is best, given the knowledge, understanding, and background they have at the time.

There are very real problems in our world today. I'm not sure that the best way to solve them is to store up a year's supply of food and wait for Jesus to come fix everything. There are amazing, brilliant, charismatic, gifted, and caring people in the world (actually, every one of us to some degree). We don't all agree on which problems are the most pressing, or how each problem should be addressed, but three things change the world: 1) the freedom, opportunity, and environment to express our views, 2) the responsibility and willingness to listen to and consider others' views without villianizing them, 3) the critical mass of consensus that, when reached, effects the change.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Only True Church

Several years ago, my colleague Brent Top and I sat with two Protestant ministers for a few hours in what proved to be a delightful and extremely enlightening conversation. Absent was any sense of defensiveness or any effort to argue and debate; we were earnestly trying to understand one another better. Toward the end of the discussion, one of the ministers turned to me and said: “Bob, it bothers you a great deal, doesn’t it, when people suggest that Latter-day Saints are not Christian?” I responded: “It doesn’t just bother me. It hurts me, for I know how deeply as a Latter-day Saint I love the Lord and how completely I trust in Him.”

My Protestant friend then made a rather simple observation, one that should have been obvious to me long before that particular moment. He said: “How do you think it makes us feel when we know of your belief in what you call the Apostasy, of the fact that Christ presumably said to the young Joseph Smith that the churches on earth at that time ‘were all wrong,’ that ‘all their creeds [are] an abomination in [my] sight,’ that ‘those professors were all corrupt’ (Joseph Smith—History 1:19), and that in your Doctrine and Covenants your church is identified as ‘the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth’ (D&C 1:30)?” I can still remember the collage of feelings that washed over me at that moment: it was a quiet epiphany, coupled with feelings of empathy, sudden realization, and a deep sense of love for my friends. For a brief time I found myself, mentally speaking, walking in their moccasins, seeing things through their eyes. It was sobering, and it has affected the way I seek to reach out to men and women of other faiths.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

FreeNAS - Mount and Share NTFS Partition at Startup

It is not recommended practice to share out an NTFS disk or partition from FreeNAS. If you just want to get information off of an NTFS formatted drive in FreeNAS, the recommended practice is to do it from Volume Manager > Import Disk.

I did this under FreeNAS 9.10-STABLE.

Before NTFS partitions can be mounted, FUSE must be loaded into the kernel. In FreeNAS GUI, go to System > Tunables, and add

  • Variable fuse_load, value YES, type loader
  • Variable fusefs_enable, value YES, type rc.conf

Now click on Account > Users > Add User, and add a user with an ID of 1001. I checked the 'Microsoft Account' box, and made the username the same as the one I use in Windows, but I'm not sure this is important...

Now open the Shell. Create a persistent mount point by typing mkdir /conf/base/mnt/ntfs_drive

Now find the UUID or name (I used UUID) of your NTFS partition that you want to mount by typing gpart list. Only you will be able to tell which disk and which partition is the correct one. Once you've found it, note the rawuuid value (or the name, which I didn't use).

Now type mount -uw /, then edit the following file with nano like

nano -w /conf/base/etc/fstab

DISCLAIMER: wrongly editing your fstab file might make your system unbootable!

append this line to the file (it is wrapped below but in the file it must all be on one line):

/dev/gptid/{UUID you noted above} /mnt/ntfs_drive fuse rw,user,mountprog=/usr/local/bin/ntfs-3g,uid=1001,gid=1001,windows_names,inherit,late 0 0

Save changes by pressing Ctrl-Shift-x, then y, then Enter. Now close the shell.

In the FreeNAS GUI, go to Services and turn CIFS on. Then click on the wrench to edit the settings. Leave everything as its default value, except for 'Auxiliary Parameters.' In that box, type (on separate lines):
[YourShareName]
path = /mnt/ntfs_drive
writeable = yes
browseable = yes

This should allow samba to share out the NTFS partition that will be mounted at startup.

The share will not be visible in the FreeNAS GUI under 'View Windows (CIFS) Shares' but it should be visible on the network to other computers.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tenderhearted and Conscientious Souls

Most of what I have said here has been addressed to persons who think that repentance is too easy. At the opposite extreme are those who think that repentance is too hard. That group of souls are so tenderhearted and conscientious that they see sin everywhere in their own lives, and they despair of ever being able to be clean. The shot of doctrine that is necessary to penetrate the hard shell of the easygoing group is a massive overdose for the conscientious. What is necessary to encourage reformation for the lax can produce paralyzing discouragement for the conscientious. This is a common problem. We address a diverse audience each time we speak, and we are never free from the reality that a doctrinal underdose for some is an overdose for others.

Friday, April 29, 2016

For When Doubts and Questions Arise

Here are some great talks to read for when doubts and questions arise concerning our faith:

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Swallowed Up in the Joy of Christ

And the Lord provided for them that they should hunger not, neither should they thirst; yea, and he also gave them strength, that they should suffer no manner of afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ. Now this was according to the prayer of Alma; and this because he prayed in faith.

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