Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Word or Two About Agency

Your Heavenly Father has given you agency, the ability to choose and to act for yourself. Agency is essential in the plan of salvation. Without it, you would not be able to learn or progress or follow the Savior. With it, you are “free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil”.


You might be wondering why I put a picture of a jail cell under a blog title and quote about agency. This is for a couple reasons. First, I've been wanting to blog about agency for a while now, considering its relevance to the current political and cultural climate of our country. Also, for my Abnormal Psychology class tonight we took a field trip to the Utah County jail in Springville. We had a short spiel from Sgt. Wall (which felt like a string of scare tactics intended to warn troubled youth against bad and addictive behavior rather than a presentation to a group of college students who just finished studying the psychological causes and effects of substance-related disorders), a brief tour of the facilities (in which we weren't sure who were the caged animals and which were the zoo visitors, us or the inmates, the way they were ogling us) and concluded our visit with a short Q&A session with two young ladies who were serving their respective sentences for extreme and repeated possession, use and selling of various and numerous illegal substances (both of whom were younger than I am, and one of whom had been in and out of jail a total of 21 times... so far...).

So, with the presidential race, as well as issues such as Proposition 8, a lot of LDS people are using the concept of agency (which, as stated above, is our God-given freedom to choose between right and wrong, a gift given to man since the very beginning with Adam and Eve--indeed, according to Preach My Gospel, it's among the very first principles taught to those investigating the Church) in some sort of convoluted misunderstood reasoning against standing for their traditions and beliefs. Agency IS a good thing, and everyone has it, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't strive to stand for and yes, even enforce good things. Agency is sort of a double-edged sword, because we all love and want to be able to choose what we want to do, but at the same time there are always consequences, for good or bad. The poor girls at the jail tearfully expressed their regret for their poor decisions, but at the same time didn't seem to shift the responsibility or blame to anyone else (they indicated they were among the most sober of the other inmates, others might not be so quick to accept the blame). Now, a lot of people feel like enacting and supporting/promoting amendments and laws that protect a preferable way of life or align with your beliefs is in some way infringing on others' agency. This mindset seems completely off to me. According to that logic, why should we even have missionary work or strive to share our beloved beliefs with others? Why would God even give or enforce commandments and why would we have to suffer consequences? Couldn't that be considered an attempt at infringement on agency? Similarly, people feel that we should vote for so-and-so because said candidate believes in, say, abortion and gay marriage, since those are things people should be able to choose, and to vote otherwise would indicate that we DON'T want to allow choice. That is hardly the point. Laws and commandments that protect morality and enforce the right are NOT an infringement on agency. People are always free to choose whether or not to follow or adhere to a set of rules (be they laws, commandments, amendments, recommendations, or friendly suggestions), but we have to do what we can to promote the good while we still can.

I believe that God gave us agency. I also believe that He wants us to use our agency to further His work and share what we believe in any realm, be it social, cultural, political or spiritual. I don't believe efforts such as promoting Proposition 8 are taking away anyone's agency. Standing for truth and righteousness in any way helps us learn and progress and follow the Savior.

Incidentally, both of these tragic ladies (who the Sgt. feels will be back in jail once released, despite their adamant insistence that they were going to clean up for good) responded identically when asked what single word of advice they would give in five seconds to keep people away from making bad choices and ending up like they did:

Keep God in your life.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Movie Trailer News

Two new movie trailers of interest:

First, the new international trailer of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Further taunting and teasing from WB, who knows that the fans know the movie is pretty much done, but they are still making us wait until July. Real cool. At least the movie looks better and better with each new trailer. That Hermione is a total sass.

Second, a trailer for Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood's latest gravelly, brooding picture, in which he stars as a curmudgeon living next door to a family who happens to be Hmong! Probably the first treatment of the Hmong culture in a major motion picture, so it's somewhat noteworthy. We'll see if it's more of Eastwood's typical, morally-thought-provoking, blue- and gray-tinted fare or if it's something a little different. I know I saw a paj ntaub on the wall of that Hmong house, so that's something new! Anyway, check it out.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

"To the One..."

Apparently I was the subject of a most vicious and bitter (and, to borrow a phrase, poorly-constructed yet potentially harmful) blog diatribe back in the midst of my first new-to-the-blogging-world controversy which came to my attention just tonight. I am continually amazed at the passionate feelings this subject elicits, although I guess by now I really shouldn't be. I realize my very being is a threat to a currently popular worldview, but I am who I am. So yeah, according to this blogpost, I exhibit "a limited vocabulary and ... inadequate grasp of grammar", a certain amount of self-loathing, and old-fashioned views. Oh, and my Hmong name is the result of a diet Sprite spill on my computer keyboard (that was actually pretty amusing).

Ummm... I write in general against principles and subjects, never against individuals. Why is it okay for some people to do that?


P.S. the link above contains some swears, but even more dangerous are the falsehoods and tragic story of a misdirected and misunderstood loss of faith. Just so you know.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Speaking of 8...

From Proposition 8 to an 8 Things tag... I read this on Cami's blog, and her final 8 made it quite clear to me that I was tagged to do this as well.

8 TV Shows I love to watch:
  1. Prison Break
  2. House (sometimes, not so much lately)
  3. The Office
  4. Survivor
  5. American Idol
  6. Daria (though I've seen every rerun a billion times)
  7. The Simpsons (not religiously, but I do die laughing when I watch it)
  8. LOST
8 Favorite Restaurants:
  1. Olive Garden
  2. Macaroni Grill
  3. Cafe Rio
  4. Wendy's
  5. Carl's Jr.
  6. Bangkok Grill (or any number of certain Thai places)
  7. Los Hermanos (or any number of certain Mexican places)
  8. Those awesome Chinese buffets they have all over the midwest (Appleton's Big Shanghai Buffet is amazing)
8 Things That Happened Yesterday:
  1. I went to church in Moab.
  2. We had a really good lunch of BLTs with the inspired addition of avocado.
  3. I listened to a boring Disney podcast.
  4. I watched a hilarious episode of the IT Crowd on the way home from Moab with Elise and Jeff (which ride home was long and painful).
  5. I webcammed with Emily for her birthday and Julie for fun.
  6. We had an amazing plate lunch gathering with the family for the twins' and Amber's birthday.
  7. I went to be at a semi-reasonable hour (not really though).
  8. I took some medicine in an attempt to not feel like total rubbish.
8 Things I'm Looking Forward To:
  1. Christmas music!!
  2. Being done with my two tests this week.
  3. Finishing The Great Gatsby tonight.
  4. Watching Prison Break live tonight!
  5. LOST starting again.
  6. Getting my grad school application together and sent off.
  7. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince coming to theaters at last.
  8. 6-9 November.
8 Things On My WishList:
  1. New running shoes.
  2. A new suit, preferably one that fits.
  3. A French Horn (I've wanted one since high school).
  4. Acceptance into grad school.
  5. To not be sick anymore!
  6. An iHome setup of some kind.
  7. LOST seasons 2-4 on DVD.
  8. A new car (why not?)
8 People I'm tagging:
  1. Melody?
  2. Emily?
  3. Vanae?
  4. Jared
  5. Lacie
  6. Elise
  7. Julie
  8. You (to borrow Cami's answer)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Proposition 8

I guess it's about time I reported on this!

A week ago the Church produced a broadcast, featuring Elder Ballard and Elder Cook of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, and Elder Clayton of the Seventy, at which attendance was encouraged for students and young adults in certain areas around the country. This fireside-type broadcast was particularly for students from and in California, educating and informing them on the issue, but I suppose all were welcome to attend (and besides, we were with Jeff, and he IS a native of California). I was glad to see the church building eventually packed to capacity! The leaders broadcasting from Salt Lake City stated in no uncertain terms the Church's clear position on the issue of gay marriage and how we who believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His restored Church should react. Some have criticized the leaders of the Church for taking a stance on what they call a merely political issue, but this issue blurs the lines of politics by involving what is actually a purely moral issue. Gay marriage is just a stepping-stone for the pro-gay agenda, and I worry what roller coaster we'll be on when/if this gets passed in widespread fashion.

"At the request of the Protect Marriage Coalition, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is making arrangements for them to call friends, family and fellow citizens in California to urge support of the effort to defend traditional marriage." (Source)

Anyway, we were exhorted to get involved technologically (blogs! texts! wallposts!) with getting the word out and encouraging people to make the right decision. I have added the countdown widget in my side bar, and I encourage you all to visit any of the following websites.

Protect Marriage - Yes on 8
Preserving the Divine Institution of Marriage
The Divine Institution of Marriage (LDS Church's August statement)
The Family: A Proclamation to the World

I'm still amazed how LDS can seriously feel opposed to this proposition... Must be the last days.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Surprise on the Drive Home

I was on my way out to the car heading from Mom and Dad's house back to Provo, when I felt something on my face... Looking up in the glow of the streetlight, I saw it. Yes, the season's first snowfall. It wasn't much, but it was something! I have it from the elders at the MTC that it was also snowing this morning! I cried tears of joy for a moment and then smiled all the way home.

That is all.

UPDATE: Two days in a row!!! It is taking everything in me not to put on some Christmas music right now...

Friday, October 10, 2008

What the...

Today after my long, hearty run in the bracing fall air, I saw that I had received a very curious message on my cell phone! It stated the following:

"Hi Drew ... calling from the Missionary Training Center. Uh, we have a Hmong teaching position which will be available at the end of this month, and we're wondering if you'd be interested in coming in for a second interview..."

*blink* *blink*

Sooooooo, maybe the previous email was a mistake, or maybe they just were done evaluating me, or maybe, oh, I don't know. I'm ultra-confused, and kind of annoyed that it caused me a noticeable amount of emotional stress for apparently no reason (yet), but yeah. In any case, I'm still down, and I called to set up an interview time! Maybe this job is in the cards for me after all.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

General Conference Weekend

I'm pretty sure everyone knows, but in case you don't, the Church to which I belong (and which I believe to be led and run by Jesus Christ Himself, under the direction of God the Father) has a General Conference twice a year (once in April, and once in October), where we are instructed and taught by general authorities of the Church, including modern-day Prophets and Apostles.

Okay, now that I've said that, most of you know how I felt about Conference weekend (more of the same, a lot of good talks, some issues sidestepped when I personally felt they should be addressed at the very forefront, but overall very nice). I've been wondering why I have come to expect some huge, different result every Conference. Generally they discuss and address a lot of the same topics these days. Anyway, there were some highlights to the weekend for me, and here they are:

Elder Corbridge of the Quorum of the Seventy talked about Christ being the only way to return to Heavenly Father, and not only that, indicated that any other attempted way is "madness". He was direct and to the point, and didn't dance around the issue, but spoke outrightly, which is so important in this day and age when people are twisting the words of the Church leaders to mean what they want them to mean. "Latter-day Saints have two choices: Follow the Lord and be endowed with his power or go some other way alone without his support and be in despair." I heard of one member who changed the channel while Elder C. was speaking, because she thought he sounded too much like a "preacher." WOW, is all I can say. The funny thing is, if this exact talk were given by Elder Holland, Elder Oaks or President Eyring, I seriously doubt the channel would have been changed.
  • Jared translating the opening prayer and Elder Holland's Saturday afternoon session talk.
He did great! His tones were spot-on, and it was really exciting to hear him deliver the message along with Elder Holland. (More details on the translation process below.)
  • Elder Hamula's Priesthood session talk.
Elder Hamula spoke to the young men of the Aaronic Priesthood, but his words are relevant to everyone. He spoke of how we can win the war with evil (and make no mistake, we are engaged in a constant state of battle for our very souls, and for the souls of those around us). He also was quite straightforward with his address and indicated that as we chose to follow Christ's plan and come forth in these days, we have a responsibility to stand strongly against the attacks of Satan. He encouraged us to be sober, in the Book of Mormon sense of the word, and not to fear because of the impending battle, but be diligent and prepared, and we CAN be victorious, just as were in the war with Satan before this life. It was inspiring. For those who were not at the Priesthood session, I recommend this one when it becomes available.
  • Translating.
For the last several weeks, I was privileged to have been able to serve as translator and interpreter for one talk (Elder Hamula's, cited above) and the closing prayer in the Priesthood session. I had always heard of former mission companions serving in this capacity, and looked forward to the opportunity to translate as well. After we received our assignments and attended a few training meetings about how to interpret for speaker (some of which seemed kind of already second-nature for we who spent every Sunday in the mission field doing simultaneous translation), the rough drafts of our talks were sent to us so we could prepare them before Conference, as translating on the spot for such an important event is kind of risky. (This process consists of translating, or taking the English text and actually translating it into your target language, and interpreting, or the actual delivery of the text for broadcast. For most languages, I understand, they give you the text already translated by official Church personnel, and you just do the interpreting, but for Hmong we were responsible for both the translation and the interpretation. Thanks for the help, Jared!) All of the translation booths are located in a large upper-floor hall of the conference center, dozens of booths, each labeled with the appropriate language, and each equipped with TV screens and microphones to broadcast the translations in dozens of languages online and in church buildings across the world. I was quite nervous, as I heard Elder Hamula's speech rate was one of the higher speeds, but I was able to keep up until he decided to change his talk almost completely halfway through! The ideas were the mostly same, but they were all jumbled and rearranged, some omitted completely and some completely new! I tried really hard to skip around with him, but eventually couldn't find the place, and the other interpreter in the booth tried to help find the spot too, but before long, I just threw it out the window and started listening and concentrating really carefully and translating on the spot. Just like old times! It was a little nerve-wracking, but I really enjoyed the experience!

So yeah, those were the highlights for me. I think I'll try and get involved with translating next Spring as well. It was also fun to see a lot of mission friends and relatives up at the beautiful Conference Center. OH, and also the protesters. They are always fairly amusing.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

"We Regret to Inform You..."

So, after being invited and encouraged in July to return to the MTC to be reevaulated for future teaching possibilities (they weren't hiring at the time, but said I showed potential and they would like to see me again), I signed up and finally found an open spot for last Thursday. One of my old MTC teachers is about to be finished teaching there, so there will be an opening really soon, so now I thought would be the time to be reevaluated. I went and taught, I thought, a decent lesson, just to the two evaluators, since no one else had shown up to fill that time slot. We had a nice conversation about the missionary purpose, according to Preach My Gospel, and how we can apply this purpose to our lives. We became acquainted and had a good time, and then, as they always do, they told me that in a few days they will contact me with one of three messages: 1) We will be recommending you for a teaching interview (basically meaning there's a job open and they think I could fill it), 2) There isn't a job opening at the moment, but feel free to come back and be reevaluated in a few months (which is where I fell last time I was evaluated), and 3) Thanks, but no thanks, don't bother trying again (which, I figured, was for people who showed NO potential, and was just a nice way of getting them out of the way). They did state the ever-diplomatic caveat saying that if I fell into this third category, it has nothing to do with the strength of my testimony, or how well I served as a missionary...

Imagine, then, my surprise when I received an email, just a few short hours later, that stated:

Thank you for your interest in participating in teaching and serving the missionaries at the Missionary Training Center. We appreciate your preparation in coming to teach others in the evaluation session and hope that you had a good experience. We regret to inform you that we will not be considering you for a teaching position. If you are still interested in working at the MTC you may apply for any non-teaching positions available through BYU Student Employment.

End. Just like that?? Last time I didn't hear for at least a week! So yes, I fell into that third group, after being encouraged to apply again, after having shown "potential". Like they said, I guess I just wasn't "the right fit." But... but... but... I keep going through the entire exchange, trying to think of ONE wrong thing I said or did. It might not have been a perfect lesson, but I certainly tried to get all the checkpoints (promised blessings, strong commitment, use of scriptures, personal experiences, class participation), and most of all, I strove to have the Spirit to tell me what to say. That IS the key to missionary to work, and teaching new elders especially. I strayed from the lesson a few times just because I thought I should. I know several elders from my mission who came home and were hired by the MTC straightaway! What's the difference? Funny thing is that I used to make fun of people who worked at the MTC, saying it was just the projection of a desperate need to hold on to the mission memories and the language, but now (eating more and more words every day), I realize there is that, but a lot of other reasons. I really wanted this job. And I know it has nothing to do with my testimony or my missionary service, I would just like to really know with what it DOES have to do.

I decided to write them back, asking briefly and calmly what I might have done wrong, for future reference, and indicating my confusion that, after being invited back, and now that there was an opening, I would be summarily dismissed like so. I didn't, and still don't expect an answer, but I felt like it was worth a try. Despite being completely unemotional in it, I'm sure they'll just perceive it as whining, a last desperate attempt at acceptance by a failed applicant.

Jared thought maybe it was a mistake? The wrong form letter accidentally cut and pasted into the email they sent? I think maybe it's further proof that I blow everything I audition/apply for. I guess I could just chalk this all up to, "maybe the Lord has different plans for me." Well, if He does, I would sure like to be let in on the plan.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Borrowed Tag

I borrowed this from my friend Julie's blog. It was an unofficial tag, and I felt like doing it, so there.

i am - home from a long day of classes.

i think - too much about little things. (I borrowed this answer from Julie too, it fits me perfectly.)

i want - a lot of money (maybe just "a comfortable amount of money").

i have - a lot of awesome friends and family.

i wish - I could give up my bad habits.

i hate - bad acting in movies.

i miss - Appleton.

i fear - being alone forever.

i feel - sleepy, but accomplished.

i hear - "Patience" from Dreamgirls (and crickets chirping outside).

i smell - remnants of a kitchen fiasco yesterday involving a roommate's overcooked and badly burned burrito.

i search - for the best way to translate random, pseudo-deep church phrases into colloquial, understandable Hmong.

i wonder - why WB really decided to push back the release of the next Harry Potter movie.

i regret - being mean to my younger sisters when we were little.

i love - ice cream.

i care - about the details.

i always - check my email.

i am not - good at remembering things (which goes against caring about the details, I know).

i believe - " Christ, He is my King..."

i dance - hardly ever anymore! But in my day, I was quite the clogger, and even did a little tap. (Sometimes I kind of dance while running... like, dance-running, but mostly running in time to my music with occasional subtle hand flourishes.)

i sing - often and always. Not always out loud, but there's usually an earbud growing out of my ear, and I sing along in my heart.

i don't always - remember to read my scriptures every day.

i write - using unusually and unnecessarily verbose and superfluous verbiage. I rest my case.

i win - at nothing for which I audition or apply!

i lose - pounds every day I don't eat but still go running. (I know, totally healthy lifestyle, right?)

i never - feel prepared for an exam at school.

i listen - to musical theater soundtracks. A lot.

i can usually be found - on facebook.

i'm scared - of sharks.

i read - every day (usually text), and I'm getting through 1984 at last!

i'm happy about - Linda Eder's new CD.