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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

BREAKING NEWS: Church Announces Extension of Light the World Campaign That Began Last Year

Hello again, everyone! The Church News recently released this article to announce an extension of the Light the World Christmas Initiative that the Church started last year. I hope that all of us will take the opportunity to take part in this initiative, whatever the extent of our involvement therewith might be. That does it for this post. Any comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated. Thank you for the privilege of your time. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Miscellaneous Church News

Hello again, everyone! As you know, most US employers are gracious enough to allow their employees a four-day weekend for Thanksgiving. Because Church employees are among those that have that happen, many articles that would have otherwise been published towards the end of any other work week are now available on the Church News website. With that in mind, here are some recently published items that I found fascinating and significant enough to pass along. Let's dive right in and talk about those articles.

In this article, I learned that Sister Harriet R. Uchtdorf, wife of President Uchtdorf, today received the German-American Friendship Award. In attendance at the presentation were President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, and Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, among other leaders of the Church. The award recognized Sister Uchtdorf for her efforts to build bridges, promote peace, and to be a good citizen of both the United States and Germany. It was awesome to read about that.

As reported here, the Harman Music Fund was established almost 20 years ago for the purpose of enabling senior missionary couples to teach the congregations they serve how to direct and play hymns for Church meetings. Prior to that time, senior missionaries would take on those roles, and then the congregations would have no one to succeed them in that assignment once their service period ended. I am glad someone recognized the need for that.

Church service efforts continue worldwide with volunteers who give time to the Mormon Helping Hands program, and volunteers in that group recently planted 4,000 trees in the Pacific Area of the Church, as recounted here. As one who served two years with the Welfare Services program of the Church, I am profoundly grateful to hear of the volunteers in this outreach efforts.

Other recent stories include temple-related developments. The second counselor of the Preston England Temple presidency was recently announced as the new president following the death of the previous one in the midst of his active service. Additionally, in conjunction with the dedication of the Meridian Idaho Temple on Sunday, the Church News released this article (with a copy of the dedicatory prayer and information about the new temple) this article about how the saints in Meridian Idaho are ready to go to work on the new temple.

As with everything else, I am keeping my eyes open for any and all Church- and temple-related news and developments, and I will be sure to pass along any additional developments in that regard. That does it for this post. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated. Thank you for the privilege of your time. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you in everything you do.

Updated Estimates for Temple-related Events

Hello again, everyone! As promised, I evaluated the changes I could make to the estimated time-frames I had provided just 12 days ago, factoring in the recent progress (or the lack thereof) that has been noted on temples around the world. As always, they are subject to confirmation, denial, or change if and when future announcements come from the Brethren about the actual timeline. The updated estimates follow. That does it for this post. Any comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated. Thank you for the privilege of your time. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless each one of you in everything you do.

Revised estimated time-frame for future temple-related events:

Sunday December 10, 2017: Dedication of the Cedar City Utah Temple (159th operating temple; already confirmed)

January: Raleigh North Carolina Temple Renovation Closure (already confirmed; exact date may not be as set in stone as I once believed)
February: Baton Rouge Louisiana Temple Renovation Closure (already confirmed; exact date may not be as set in stone as I once believed)
Sunday March 4: Washington DC Temple Renovation Closure (already confirmed)
April or May: Full-scale construction anticipated to begin on the Winnipeg Manitoba Temple
May: Mesa Arizona Temple Renovation Closure (already confirmed; exact date not yet released)
Sunday May 20: Jordan River Utah Temple Rededication (already confirmed)
Sunday August 12 or 19: Frankfurt Germany Temple Rededication
Sunday September 16 or 23: Concepcion Chile Temple Dedication (160th operating temple)
Sunday October 14 or 21: Kinshasa DR Congo Temple Dedication (161st operating temple)
Sunday November 11 or 18: Barranquilla Colombia Temple Dedication (162nd operating temple)

Mid-April: Memphis Tennessee Temple Rededication
Mid-to-late April: Rome Italy Temple Dedication (163rd operating temple)
Early-to-mid May: Oklahoma City Oklahoma Temple Rededication
Mid-May: Asuncion Paraguay Temple Rededication
Late May-early June: Durban South Africa Temple Dedication (164th operating temple)
Mid-June: Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple Dedication (165th operating temple)
Early-to-mid August: Fortaleza Brazil Temple Dedication (166th operating temple)
Mid-to-late August: Rio de Janeiro Temple Dedication (167th operating temple)
Mid-September: Raleigh North Carolina Temple Rededication
Mid-October: Baton Rouge Louisiana Temple Rededication
Mid-to-late October: Lisbon Portugal Temple Dedication (168th operating temple)
Mid-November: Arequipa Peru Temple Dedication (169th operating temple)
Mid-December: Oakland California Temple Rededication
NOTE: The Church indicated when announcing the renovation of this temple that it would reopen in 2019. That said, it is an older temple, and as such, may take longer than anticipated. I could see it being rededicated in 2020, if the process is delayed for any reason.

Mid-to-late April: Winnipeg Manitoba Temple Dedication (170th operating temple)
Mid-May: Tokyo Japan Temple Rededication
Early-to-mid September: Mesa Arizona Temple Rededication
Mid-November: Washington DC Temple Rededication
NOTE: If, as I expect, almost all of the temples that are currently announced have a groundbreaking in either 2018 or 2019, then it is more likely than not that many of them could be dedicated during 2020. For now, the only events that are anticipated to happen in 2020 are listed here. As the next two years unfold, I will be adding future events to this list.

A Thanksgiving Message: The Link Between Gratitude and Service

Hello again, everyone! In view of the fact that Thanksgiving Day will be observed in the US on Thursday, I wanted to post a Thanksgiving message on this blog for all of you, my readers, for whom I am thankful, especially at this time of year. I pray that the Lord will bless us all with His Spirit, especially me as I write this and each of you as you read it in the coming days.

As many of you may be aware, I have had life-long health-related difficulties. The extent of these difficulties has led to numerous surgeries and hospitalizations. Pain is a daily factor in whatever I do in life. I have done my best to push through things as much as I can to do what needs to be done on a daily basis, and the varying degrees of success or failure in those endeavors has largely been determined by the drive I can muster to do what I know needs to be done. And I know that I am no stranger to the concept that the load I carry, however heavy it may be at any given time, may be far less or far more cumbersome than what other people may be dealing with. A couple of things hat have resulted from all of this is that I have always tried to rise above whatever my condition might be to lift and encourage those around me, and it has always been hard on me to see the suffering on any scale of anyone with whom I am acquainted.

That is one of many reasons why, as a Welfare Services Missionary serving in a local Humanitarian Service Room at the Deseret Industries, I was touched by one massive project after another that would provide basic needs for those without such things. The memory of one in particular will live on in my heart for as long as I am able to remember and share it.

The story behind it is very moving. Andy Noble, a young man who was living in Michigan and was 17 years old, was born prematurely with fetal alcohol syndrome. He also had cerebral palsy, terminal lung disease, frequent seizures, uses oxygen, and is unable to speak. At birth, doctors gave him less than a year to live. Each day of his life was and is a miracle, and that was enough to make me grateful for my own disabilities (cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus) but the next part of the story is even more remarkable. 

Andy, who loved everyone and idolized all emergency service personnel, started a collection of patches from emergency personnel in his hometown, and before long emergency services personnel nationwide, hearing of his interest in them, sent in their patches. The Church became involved in this story when one of the firemen who donated his patch to Andy let Salt Lake know what Andy wanted to do with them. He could easily have kept them for his own private enjoyment, but this young man amazingly saw a higher purpose in the project he had started. 

Before long, around 15,000 patches were sewn onto 300 banners. Salt Lake did 100 and asked our center to do the other 200. The banners became a quilt, which started a nationwide tour at the Vivint Smart Home Arena (which was then known as the Energy Solutions Arena) the beginning of the year following the start of the project. 

But it gets even more amazing. While money raised from these exhibits may have been badly needed for Andy’s medical care, all proceeds went to local emergency services charities wherever the banners are displayed. Tears blurred my vision as, without one exception, each volunteer who worked on the project expressed gratitude for the opportunity to help this young man. While the banners may fade and grow tattered in time, the spirit of the story behind the banners will remain in my heart forever, as will the important lesson it taught me.

The lesson is this: A grateful heart is a serving heart, and a heart that serves will become more grateful. If Andy Noble, this young man with so many health problems, can take time to start a project that grew to such a wide scope, why can’t we serve each other every day? As one of our hymns say, “the world wants daily little kindly deeds.” 

When I think of Andy Noble, I think of another favorite hymn, A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief. Much like the man whose words are the hymn, Andy Noble may not physically comprehend who he is serving, but his spirit understands, and he is grateful to serve Him any way he can, no matter how small. Andy’s service is acceptable to the Savior, and at some point he will know it for himself. Will it be the same for us? I heard it said once that gratitude is a spirit-filled principle. May I also suggest that gratitude is a service-filled principle. Our gratitude increases as we serve, and our service opens our minds and hearts to more things for which we can express gratitude.

The Christlike love which Andy Noble so nobly demonstrated should be an example to all who wish to be called the people of God. The Prophet Joseph Smith stated that "a man filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges all over, anxious to bless the whole human race."

As Thanksgiving (and Christmas) approaches, I would like to invite all of you who read this message to take time to serve. As you do so, you will be blessed beyond your ability to comprehend. And as you recognize those blessings in your life, your heart will swell with gratitude for the gift of your life. Truly, my brothers and sisters, “because [we] have been given much, [we] too must give.” I pray for the Lord’s blessings to be with us, that this time of Thanksgiving will also become a season of service. For these blessings I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Temple Update/Elders Oaks & Ballard Give Counsel to Young Single Adults

Hello again, everyone! This post will serve as both an update on temple progress and to pass along one Church news item I found significant. Let's dive right in to all of that.

While not much has changed in terms of the current status of construction on temples worldwide, I did find out that the upper walls of the Lisbon Portugal Temple have been poured. With that milestone, the roof and the steeple will be the next projects for that temple. It was good to hear of that progress.

In the meantime, we have not yet heard word on when full-scale construction might begin in Winnipeg or Port-au-Prince, or if and how the exterior look of the Asuncion Paraguay Temple may change during the renovation process. Nothing official has been further announced in terms of the other announced temples either. I am also still in the process of evaluating yet again how soon we might see temple-related events for the next three years, and will be getting back to my post series on potential future temple sites at some point this week. I hope you all know that I am keeping my eye on all of this and will post more information when I have it.

For now, I wanted to turn the focus of this post from temple developments to an interesting Church news story which I have previously referenced on this blog. The Church scheduled a Face-to-Face event for Young Single Adults that originated from Utah on Sunday. The event featured Elders Dallin H. Oaks and M. Russell Ballard, who have been seatmates in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles since Elder Ballard's call to the apostleship in October 1985.

As also mentioned previously, Elder Ballard had spoken last week in the devotional at BYU-Provo. The subsequent Face-to-Face Event allowed him and Elder Oaks to continue to give candid answers about the issues and questions that were brought up. For more specific details on what that event involved, click here/

That does it for this post. Any comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated. Thank you for the privilege of your time. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray the Lord's blessings will be upon you all in everything you do.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Latest Church News includes updates on the travels and teachings of our current apostles

Hello again, everyone! I wanted to post and pass along some news relating to the ongoing ministry of our apostles. My sources for these updates are the Church News and Mormon Newsroom websites. Let's dive right in to those significant accounts.

In an earlier blog post, I had mentioned that the inauguration of Clark G. Gilbert was set to take place on November 16. President Nelson, as mentioned in that blog post, has no direct role on the Church Board of Education, but was asked by the First Presidency to be the senior leader in attendance and administer a charge to President Gilbert in which he gave guidance about where President Gilbert's focus should be in this new assignment. You can read more on the inauguration here.

In an entirely different earlier blog post, I had also shared an article in which Church leaders thanked members for their generous donations (of money, supplies and time) in responding to the natural disasters that have struck various nations and left devastation worldwide. Two days ago, the original article on the Church news was updated with additional statements that have been made by Church leaders in the 2 weeks since that time as more disasters have struck. You can find that update here.

And finally, during last Tuesday's devotional at BYU-Provo, Elder M. Russell Ballard spoke candidly to students about the answers to several questions he has often received when he meets with young adults, both single and married. For more on what those topics were and what he had to say about them, click here.

That does it for this post. Any comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated. Thank you for the privilege of your time. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you individually and collectively in everything you do.

Meridian Idaho Temple Dedication Held Today

Hello again, everyone! Earlier today, three dedicatory sessions were held for the Meridian Idaho Temple, making it the 158th Church-wide and the fifth in Idaho. A summary of the events associated with that dedication can be found herehere, and here. Representing Church leadership at this dedication were President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Ulisses Soares of the Presidency of the Seventy (who supervises the Idaho Area), Presiding Bishop Gerald Causse, and Elders Kevin R. Duncan (representing the Temple Department) and Edward Dube (who seems to either have a role in the Temple or Family History Departments).

I am sure that was a wonderful event, and I am grateful to have been able to report on it in this blog post/ Additionally, yesterday marked the conclusion of the open house for the Cedar City Utah Temple. Aside from these developments, there is no additional temple news to report.

That does it for this post. Any comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated. Once things normalize a bit more in terms of my health, I anticipate getting back to the series of posts on potential temple sites, along with passing on any major Church or temple news as I become aware of it. Thank you for the privilege of your time. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you individually and collectively in everything you do.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Personal Update

Hello again, everyone! As some of you may have noticed, I have been taking some personal time that was needed to deal with health and family issues. I wanted to post a brief update on what was done and what it means for the future of myself, my wife, and the updates I do on this blog.

As some of you may recall, I put out a request for prayers when I found out that the prior authorization for one of my regular medications had been denied. Additionally, as I may or may not have mentioned, my health insurance coverage has been extended to include dental benefits.

So while I was trying to get the medication issue resolved (and not having much success in doing so), I had my first visit with my new dentist. I was instantly impressed. In the course of examining me, he mentioned that I had around 10-12 substantial cavities that needed to be dealt with, however I chose to have that done. I initially set an appointment for the next week after that, but moved it up to a couple of days after the first because my mouth had been aching.

When my dentist was working on getting those cavities filled (we had determined that, since he had the time, we would get them all done at once, eliminating the need for an appointment until my next check up), we discovered that one of my wisdom teeth was severely decayed. They gave us the options we could do to try and save the tooth, which were all temporary solutions at best that would not be good long-term options. Then my wife asked the inspired question: what if the tooth were extracted? We found out that would be covered in full. So, we added that to the day's plan, and though I had trouble keeping still a couple of times during the ordeal, we got it taken care of.

The next week was filled with personal things, but also with a very strange abnormality: Some of the physical symptoms I had been dealing with for a good portion of my life were substantially lessened, others went away completely. This was wonderful and strange to get used to.

On Wednesday night this week, I realized that my neck was not tight at all (which had been a lifelong problem) and that I was not in as much pain. At the same time, the problems I had with getting to sleep every night went away, and I was able to get up on my own after roughly 7-9  hours every night.

But this is the biggest change: on Thursday we saw my muscle doctor, they asked about my pain levels, and I realized that my pain was only 3 on a scale of 0-10 (10 being the worst). That was huge for me, as my regular pain has been 6 or 7 at best for the last several years. I also saw a reversal of many of the physical issues that had become problematic since our marriage.

In the interim, Amy and I had decided to get a cat, and while I was dealing with my physical symptoms (including all the great changes), she looked into the options and got the house prepared. Yesterday, we made a second trip to Salt Lake, this time to see my neurologist. When I had received word of the prior authorization for the one medication being denied, I had determined an adjustment to the dosage of the medication I was able to get would be appropriate, and when we saw my neurologist, she stated she had approved that change, and said that she would be very surprised if, once I got used to the new dosage, I did not feel substantially better. She also confirmed that the wisdom tooth issue may have been the one factor we had not considered in my treatment.. We will follow up with her in a month (or two, if I am feeling all right).

From our appointment, we made our way to the Best Friends animal shelter. While we greatly enjoyed mingling with several cats there, the first one that approached us at the shelter is the one we opted to get, especially since she appeared to do well around us. Her name is Blaire, and we are grateful to have her in out home.

Between getting things resolved in terms of my health, and having Blaire around, my anxiety has diminished substantially. I may post a picture of her later if there is enough demand for it. She took a while to get used to being in our home, but has spent most of the day today either sleeping or curled up next to or on the laps of either Amy or me, and she seems to especially enjoy being by my side.

So, with the events of the last 30 hours or so, things are looking up. Thank you all for bearing with me as I have shared all of this. If the improvements continue, then that is sure to be the "new normal" for us. That does it for this post. Any comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated. Thank you for the privilege of your time. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Progress (and the lack thereof) noted for several temples

Hello again, everyone! While the decision of the planning and zoning commission on the proposal for the plots of land that could house the Pocatello Idaho Temple and residential homes may still be around 7-8 hours away, and while we may not actually hear an official confirmation of the Church's intent to use the site in question, there were one or two other noteworthy temple-related developments which I wanted to pass along.

First of all, as many of you will recall, the Meridian Idaho Temple Dedication events are set to occur this weekend. It is significant to me that, as the dedication of one temple in Idaho draws closer, we could have the site identified for the newest Idaho temple by the end of the same week. That is pretty amazing to consider.

Next, just a little while ago, I learned that the Angel Moroni has now been installed on the steeple of the Barranquilla Colombia Temple. Since the placing of that angel marks a major milestone for all temples, I feel even more certain than I have previously been that the temple will be dedicated in mid-November 2018.

I also wanted to note that, since the groundbreaking was held almost three weeks ago, there has been no reported progress on the Port-au-Prince Haiti Temple. That does not necessarily mean there has not been any progress noted, just that I have not heard about it.

As the Asuncion Paraguay Temple nears the month mark following its closure, I have not yet been able to find out anything more about what the renovation process might involve for that temple. I previously voiced my opinion that the new look I shared with you that will be used for the Memphis and Oklahoma City temples could be the new look for all temples built within that era. If it has been determined that that design will not work for the one temple in Paraguay, I will be interested to see why the renovation process has been initiated.

As far as I know, no other temple progress has been reported, so that does it for this post. As always, any comments are welcome and appreciated. Thank you for the privilege of your time. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Developments Reported on the Durban South Africa Temple/Zoning Plan Set to Be Proposed for the Pocatello Idaho Temple

Hello again, everyone! I have just been reminded about some additional temple-related developments, this time for the Durban South Africa Temple, where that edifice is being prepared for its wall panels, and where a retaining wall is being built behind missionary housing. Roof work continues for both the temple and the missionary housing facility.

In other temple news, tomorrow, the planning and zoning commission for the city of Pocatello will host a presentation by those developing the residential area and also an engineering firm representing the Church, for the purpose of proposing how the land will be subdivided. If approved, that will serve as an official confirmation that the Church intends to build the Pocatello Idaho Temple as part of that development. I will post the results of that at some point tomorrow once I learn of them.

Aside from these things, there has been no other temple progress to note for now. That does it for this post. Any comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated. Thank you for the privilege of your time. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.