Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Nobody is born Mormon. Even if you're born into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, you're not born Mormon. Though, as I type out Mormon, the word Mormon feels strange under my fingers. We are called Mormons, and though I respect Mormon as an ancient American prophet who abridged the golden plates, no small task, this is not his Church. I am not a follower of Mormon. Nor am I a follower of Joseph Smith. I'm a follower of Jesus Christ. It is Christ who is the center of everything I believe.
Regardless, Mormon is the label we, who believe and follow the Doctrines of the LDS faith, are stamped with. It's a name I'm attached with, and though born into the Church, it's a label I choose to wear.
Still, I wasn't born believing the Church is true. That's a knowledge I had to seek and pray for.
Looking back on my life I can't remember a time when I didn't believe in God. There's no defining moment that led me to realize God exist. This is something I've always believed and have never had to question. This faith lies deep in my spirit. But believing the LDS church is true? I didn't even know other churches existed until I was seven years old, and I didn't grow up in Utah.
It was the beginning of the second grade, the Summer of 1989, as we had year-around-school. The day was hot, as hot as it typically gets in Porterville California, which is an hour north of Bakersfield. I remember standing close to the fence which overlooked a big field, which lay next to the soon to be All American City Highway, which was next to the foothill mountains, the Sierra Nevada mountains blue in the distance. I was to the south of the slide playground having a rather heated debate over religion.
One of my classmates, her face now blurred in memory, was countering everything I said. This somewhat out of the ordinary conversation for a couple of seven year old's started when I mentioned how excited I was to be getting baptized. "What is baptize?" She asked me, and I explained that it involved getting submerged in water. "Our church doesn't do that!" She proclaimed, "You're wrong."
"I'm not wrong. You get baptized when you're eight. And then you get the gift of the Holy Ghost."
"My church doesn't do that. You don't go to the right church!"
And we went back and forth, na na-na na na like. "You're wrong" this and "You're wrong" that. The Trinity was mentioned, and I brought up the Godhead, the idea that Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are all separate beings. Naturally that started up a whole new debate.
When the recess bell rang I went back to the classroom somber, suddenly realizing there are other churches, and that these churches believe different things, and that they believe they're right and that they believe they attend the right church of Christ. And then suddenly I realized, "What if my church is wrong? What if I believe the wrong thing?" That line of thought then quickly turned into, "How can I get baptized when I could be joining the wrong Church? And if I am being baptized into the right Church, am I ready for that commitment?" My mind spun round and round. In my spirit I knew I could only get baptized if I was fully ready to make an Eternal commitment to Christ, and not fall back on my covenants. At the time I didn't know "covenant" was the word that represented what I didn't want to break. I didn't want to break my promise to God. I wanted always to follow him.
That three block walk home after school was a long one. So distraught was my mind, full of questions and worries. How was I going to tell my Mom that there are other churches and they feel they're right!?
When I did tell my Mom she was very patient, understanding, and bore her testimony with what she believed. She then told me I had to seek out, ask questions, and form my own testimony, and that she would trust me no matter what I decide. A lot of trust for a seven year old. But baptism is no small thing.
In all those months leading up to my eighth birthday I struggled reading the Book of Mormon and the scriptures. I was incredibly below average in my reading skills at the time, not getting up to grade level until the fourth grade. Reading was a struggle, but I tried my best, and knew God would make up the rest. It was around this time I stopped coloring during sacrament meeting and started listening to the talks. If I can't fully read the scriptures I was going to listen, both in Sacrament meeting and Sunday School. One time when we had the missionaries over for dinner they asked if anyone had any questions. My Mom said, "Sarah has a question."
"How do I know the Church is true?" They mentioned reading the scriptures and praying, but then they shared something that has stuck with me. They talked about Christ time and that while he lived the church was perfect. A mirror, fully formed, represented this. After he died the mirror shattered into many pieces. As time went on one truth was picked up by one group and they formed a church around that mirror piece, trying to fill in the gaps. Another church was formed around another mirror piece or so, trying to fill in the gaps. Another church was formed around another mirror piece, trying to fill in the gaps. And so forth. Each Christian church with different truths and beliefs, some the same, some different, all trying to recreate the mirror with their own pieces. No church completely wrong, but no church completely right, because of the missing truths.
Then one day Joseph Smith asked the same question I asked. What church is true? They're all so different. And the answer he received was to join none of them. Over time Joseph Smith, through inspiration, guidance, and revelation was able to put the mirror back together with all the missing pieces: temples, prophets, ordinances, covenants, priesthood keys, gift of the Holy Ghost, modern revelation, personal revelation, as so forth. All the mirror pieces joined together to form Christ's reflection.
I don't know at what point I realized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is Christ's restored church on Earth, but I did realize it. The process was slow. Bit by bit. And I said so many prayers. But there came a point before I turned eight that I did know the Church was true. I did believe Jesus Christ was my Savior and Redeemer. I dis know Joseph Smith to be a prophet of God. And I know The Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ.
My testimony has only gotten stronger.
When I went for my interview with my Bishop to see of I was ready for baptism, I answered all his questions with confidence. I knew. And today I still know.
And I also knew it was never going to be easy becoming a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. That confrontation during recess my second grade year taught me that, and I knew instinctively I was agreeing to a life of persecution if I was baptized. Porterville is a very religious community, at least when I was there, and anti-Mormons crossed my path regularly. They tried to beat me down. Shun me. But that only made me stronger.
I met good people, too. One of my friends was a Methodist and I went on a trip with her church group to Magic Mountain. They learned I was Mormon and didn't treat me bad. You have no idea how much that meant to me.
Standing for what you believe is a lonely path, but being a follower of Christ was never meant to be easy.
My Grandpa R. gave me a set of scriptures when I was baptized, one book comprising the Old and New Testament, the second book containing The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. On the inside flap he wrote: "To Sarah! We love you! And we present this Book of Mormon to you. May you read it everyday. It is the greatest book in the world!"
I treasure that inscription because of what it came to represent. Around 2000 my Grandpa left the church. It was a traumatic day on many fronts, especially for my Mom.
At one time, around 1990, he mailed out hundreds of Book of Mormons to those of our Scottish linage with a 4 generation genealogy chart and his testimony included. I found one of these un-mailed Book of Mormon's in his Ventura home office when I was packing it almost two years ago. I also found several folders containing correspondence he received from those he gave Book of Mormon's to, most of what I found was anti-Mormon literature.
In the last several years I've come to realize why he left the church. I respect his agency. I have to, as I'm a strong defender of agency. Always have been, always will.
That inscription he wrote in my Book of Mormon is a reminder not to ever take my testimony for granted. A reminder of how fragile testimonies are.
I do believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ's restored church during these last days. I do believe Jesus Christ is my Savior and Redeemer, the center of everything I believe, my everything.
I write these things in the name of Jesus Christ,
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Rating: 3.25 out of 5 stars
I hear from so many friends that Hollywood has a creativity problem. There are a boat load of remakes, sequels, and prequels. Just earlier this year Disney released a live action version of The Jungle Book, which did phenomenally well. I saw it in French in a little theater in Issoudun, and it was charming, though for the most part I was theorizing what was going on. Really need to see it in English. Last year Disney did a live action Cinderella. Next year is Beauty and the Beast. And they just recently did Alice Through the Looking Glass.
Now we have another version of Pete's Dragon, a remake of the 1977 version. The original was charming, and as a kid I was enchanted by Elliott's animation, juxtaposed unto live action. With modern technology we have CGI, but as a kid a cartoon dragon intermingling with live humans was cool. Then there were the songs: Brazzle Dazzle Day, Candle on the Water, and It's Not Easy, to name a few.
When I found out about the Pete's Dragon remake I didn't know what to expect. The trailer looked interesting, but it was obvious that this story was being removed from the original, hinting that Pete is lost in the forest and protected, for years, by a mysterious dragon. Already the heart of the original lost. Maybe it was simply a change of setting? Maybe that's all.
But no, nothing of the original movie, besides the character names of Pete and Elliot and Pete needing a new family, survive. Instead we have an original story that draws more on Jungle Book and Tarzan than on Pete's Dragon. A new plot void of originality and magic, though we are reminded over and over that this is a story about magic. Magic of the unknown and the mysterious dragons.
Don't get me wrong, there were still delightful and heart felt moments. The scene where Pete first finds Elliot had me in tears. If only the film maintained that enchantment throughout.
In sort what we have is a predictable original story that should be entitled "The Boy and his Dragon," because that's more fitting, instead of a title slapped onto a script to make a few extra bucks.
I've read what some people have said about this movie on forums. That the original Pete's Dragon is incredibly cheesy and stupid, and that this remake is an improvement. I think my issue is that so much is changed that instead of making this a remake, it should have gone in the direction of original, because so much originality is mission in Hollywood. And I just now thought of The Jungle Book, this kid being lost for six years, and how he howls like the wolves.
It's still a good family film, not a musical, not Pete's Dragon, but a film children may find interesting.
MPAA: Rated PG for action, peril and brief language.
Friday, August 12, 2016
One of my favorite things to do when I was a kid was to go with my Dad and brother Michael to the middle of nowhere to watch for meteor showers. Dazzling displays of falling stars every few minutes.
In Central California it's not hard to drive to where you can see the night sky in perfect glory. The sky so dark that the Milky Way hangs in the air like a river of stars.
We would drive to the Sierra foothills between one and four a.m., park on the side of the road, and get out our lawn chairs. We sat there for hours, our Timex watches lighting our faces every few minutes until the show would start, and then time froze as light danced across the sky.
Those moments our some of my favorite childhood memories.
Tonight, August 12th now, so technically morning, was suppose to be a magnificent meteor shower. It's 1:46 a.m. as I write this. The peak of the shower was supposed to be between one and two this morning. I went outside and didn't see anything, and now I'm in the house again. Maybe there's too much light pollution. Maybe I didn't wait long enough. Maybe I missed it. Maybe the guy on the nightly news got it wrong.
I'm standing outside again, just in case, but I still see no shooting stars. It's amazing how still the night seems this early in the morning. The crickets chirping. Lawns being watered in the distance. And cars driving fiercely on I-15. I never hear the freeway like this in the middle of the day. One star in particular is twinkling rapidly between white, blue, and red. Maybe it's a planet.
Nope. Going back inside. It's nearly 2:00.
For a second I thought I saw one, but I quickly realized that there are mountains where I saw it. Hopeful imagination.
Wishes can wait.
Dreams are waiting for me on my pillow.
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Sunday, August 7, 2016
Saturday, August 6, 2016
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars
For starters Suicide Squad is considerably better than Batman v Superman.
Second of all, I went into this movie curious. There has been a lot of buzz for this movie for well over a year. There was considerable excitement over the first released trailer; It was thought that Suicide Squad, about a group of DC comic villains getting together to save the day, would be the money monster to jump start the DC movie universe, especially after the lackluster said Batman v Superman movie.
Then the movie reviews started coming out, none of which were encouraging. Most of them bad. The sudden news of expensive re-shoots to bring the same tone from the trailer to the movie also didn't bode well, if this news was true. Again, not encouraging.
I went into this movie not knowing quite what to expect. Would it have the same humor and sparkle as the trailer? Would it be messy like Batman v Superman? Did DC finally get their act together to prove competition to Marvel?
My answer to the first question is a so-so. There was humor and good moments. There were also a lot of corny lines that felt miss placed. Now, it isn't all humorous, which is a good thing. There were some depressing moments, particularly surrounding the backstory for Will Smith's character, which worked. Parts of the movie had the right tones for what this movie was wishing to convey.
The second question, would this film be messy? Yes, yes it was. But not nearly as bad as Batman v Superman. (BTW, I completely forgot Superman died in that movie. Completely left my mind. That's how forgettable it was. I can't even remember if there was a hint if Superman survived. I should check wikipedia . . . later.) There weren't any random dream sequences created to trick the audience, feeling like some kind of drug trip of sorts. The first half of the movie was a lot of set up, dragging the pacing and timing of the movie.
Backstories are important, but it felt a bit much, though I understand their necessity. With Marvel's Avengers each character got an origin movie, and those that didn't were first placed into another movie for proper set up, so when the assembly movie came together we were able to get right to the action. There hasn't been a proper set up in previous movies for the characters in Suicide Squad, so the first part of the movie was dedicated to a lot of their set up. I didn't know anything about Will Smith's Deadshot. Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn I had familiarity with thanks to the animated DC series, which my younger brothers watched when we were kids and I occasionally watched as well.
The third question, does DC hold a candle to Marvel? Not yet. One thing DC has been struggling with, which Marvel accomplishes in spades, is good storytelling. DC struggles with telling a strong fluid story with good character development and sequence of events.
Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn is a thing of beauty; she nailed the character. Jared Leto's take on The Joker is appropriate and terrifying. The Joker had to be completely different from Heath Ledger's portrayal, and it was, fitting the tone of Suicide Squad.
In the end Suicide Squad isn't my cup of tea. Never was. Evil fighting evil is an interesting concept, but I guess I like the idea of evil becoming good, and finishing that thought would spoil stuff. I'm not a fan of glorified violence, though many didn't share my thoughts, reflected by the fact that this movie made $65 million yesterday alone, on track to make around $145 million opening weekend, according to Box Office Mojo.
Maybe DC finally found the movie to boost their movie universe after all.
MPAA: Rated PG - 13 for sequences of violence and action throughout, disturbing behavior, suggestive content and language.