Sunday, June 29, 2014

A brief post about our trip to Kauai

Very recently, my wife and son and I had the opportunity to visit the island of Kauai, in Hawaii. My awesome sister-in-law wanted to go over there to marry her fiancé (now her husband), and was so kind to invite us to go along. While I was unsure about making the trip, and whether or not I cared at all about Hawaii, I can now say, Kauai is AMAZING!!!
One of the many gorgeous river valleys on the island.
We stayed on the southern end of the island, in Poipu, and in one of the nicest hotels I've ever seen. We were right on the beach, and our room had a balcony with a view of the blue, blue ocean. Every morning, I'd wake to the sound of hundreds of birds singing, and the waves hitting the beach. From the hotel, I could go running along this path, which eventually became a dirt and lava-rock trail. It was a pretty wonderful thing; a very spiritual environment, in which to run and start my mornings.
Local surfers were a regular site at the beach by the hotel. The water was so comfortable--around 75 degrees, so the surfers would stay out as long as they were catching good waves, right up until it was too dark to see.

This was our hotel, the Grand Hyatt in Poipu. There were regular swimming pools and jacuzzis, as well as these tidal pools. I was surprised to see so many people spending more time in the tidal pools, than just out in the ocean itself. Not us; I don't think we ever set foot in the hotels pools. It was the ocean, or nothing for us.

There is something incredibly special about this island. I felt it. I don't think you can help but feel it. Kauai is nicknamed "The Garden Island," which is very appropriate. The entire place is covered in jungle, basically. There are green plants and trees, everywhere you look, and so thick that you'd need a machete to navigate most of it. I could not help but notice that the island just feels so ALIVE!! So much plant life. So many beautiful rivers, full of life-sustaining water. So many huge, powerful waterfalls along those rivers. The mountains on Kauai are gorgeous, though many of them are often socked in by steam and rain clouds. Near dead-center of the island, Mt. Kauaikini rises up over 5200 feet, being the island's tallest peak. It receives over 400 inches of annual rainfall. I can't help but wonder how much more beautiful it would be here in Utah, if our mountains received even 200 inches of annual rainfall.

We were only on the island for a week, but enough to get a sense of the people there. They are hard-working, but also quite relaxed. No one seemed to be in a rush, or very stressed out about anything. The fastest speed limit on the island is 50mph, and most of the narrow stretches of highway, where I would assume the speed limit might be 55 or 60mph, the speed limit was only 25mph. It made driving very pleasant, and such that you could really see things, and take it all in, as much as possible. I was very fortunate to be able to meet up with a missionary friend, who I hadn't seen since we were both serving as Mormon missionaries in Los Angeles, CA...17 or 18 years ago. He is from Kauai, and continues to live there, now with his wife and son. And he showed us a great time at Anahola Beach, about 2/3 of the way up the west coast of the island. The beach was so nice, and secluded from all of the tourists. (We would never have known about it if he hadn't have invited us and given us good directions). There, we sat on the beach, did some snorkeling--where I got stung by jellyfish--and tried paddle-boarding for my first time. I LOVE it!! Now I want to buy one, and try it out on the lakes around here.
Sheldon Espina and I at Anahola Beach, Kauai, Hawaii. He hasn't changed a bit, after 17+ years, when I knew him as a fellow-missionary in the California Los Angeles Mission. It was really great to see him, and I hope it's not so long before we can hang out again.

This is at Wailua Falls, one of the first places we found a ways off the beaten path. I didn't get any good photos of them, because they were too far away for my wide-angle lens, but we watched these beautiful White-tailed Tropicbirds, circling around below, and near the river, and they'd follow each other, almost in a dance, and fly in and out of the falls. It was a cool thing to watch.

Opeakaa Falls--allegedly this is shown during the opening credits of that old show, "Fantasy Island." (Remember it? "Da plane! Da plane!")

Opeakaa River. And if you click on the photo, you can see some tiny kayakers, probably having one of the most amazing experiences of their lives.

I took over my nice camera, hoping to do lots of photography. But, on a family trip, I realized that was more easily said than done. So, I didn't get as many photos as I might have wanted. I did manage to capture some nice pics at sunset, in Poipu. As far as wildlife in Kauai, it's pretty much birds. LOTS of birds, including a gazillion wild chickens. Yep. Wild chickens. That no one eats. I asked my friend, as well as the lady working one of the delicious food trucks, and they told me no one eats the wild chickens; that the meat would be too tough, and not that tasty. That surprised me; I would have assumed one could subsist well on nothing but the wild chickens. They were EVERYWHERE. 
Common Myna.

Cattle Egret.

A very handsome Red Junglefowl rooster, one of the MANY wild chickens on the island. These were introduced to Hawaii by some early Polynesian settlers, and they have no real predators on Kauai, other than a few raptor birds. On some of the other Hawaiian islands, there are Mongoose, which helps keep the Junglefowl populations in check.
While I didn't take photos of them, I wanted to mention that I also saw: A black-crowned Night Heron, Hawaiian Hawks, many finches, lots of Zebra Doves (very common over there), Northern Cardinals and Red-Crested Cardinals, Peacocks, and many others I couldn't identify. It's also worth noting, I think, that there are raptors that we also have in Utah, such as Short-eared Owls, Barn Owls, Osprey, Peregrine Falcons and others.

I appreciated the simple, yet soulful architecture on Kauai, and found a couple of churches to be very charming.
This was the Mormon Branch Building in Hanalei. Still a bland looking ward/branch house, but with a tropical, Hawaiian twist.

Wai'oli Hui'ia Church. (It's a Christian/Bible-based church). Why doesn't every church have stained-glass and palm trees?!

Same thing--different angle.

For my sister-in-law's wedding, the ceremony was held at a place called Smith Gardens. It was a simple and beautiful ceremony, with a mountain and jungle backdrop. I didn't take any photos of it, as I didn't want to be an "Uncle Bob," and bother the professional photographer that Smith Gardens provided, as part of the wedding package. But it was a gorgeous afternoon, birds were chirping, romance was in the air, etc... ;) Following the wedding, we attended a luau in the same location. The food was SOOO GOOD!!! And that was followed by a presentation by island dancers/performers, representing all of the different peoples of Hawaii (called the Rhythm of Aloha show).
This was the backdrop for the ceremony, or at least one small part of the backdrop.

It was super hard to take nice photos of the show, as it was very dark, the lighting was poor, and the dancers were 25 yards or so away from where the audience was sitting. This fire dancer was amazing, and had A LOT of personality. We really enjoyed the show.

There truly is something special about Kauai. There is a spirit there that I couldn't ignore. It's in everything. It's in the people. It's in their culture and traditions, which they keep alive. It's in the wildlife. It's in the green jungle, the rivers, the waterfalls and the ocean. It's in the gorgeous starry skies at night, and in the sunrises and sunsets. Kauai isn't too commercialized, like some of the other islands. There aren't any skyscrapers. There aren't a lot of roads. The ecosystem seems, in great part, to be intact, and unmolested. The whole place just feels very much alive, and I was invigorated by it all. It changed me. And we look forward to going back.

And just a couple other pics to end on.

Huge cave, just beyond Hanalei Bay.

The hotel's dining area was open to the outdoors, which was lovely. The air always smelled so good, and the sounds of the ocean and all the birds were better than lousy elevator music. After people would leave their tables, these Mynas and Finches would swarm in and start cleaning up the plates and bowls, as much as they wanted. It was kind of awesome.

"Spouting Horn," near Poipu.

"Spouting Horn." This lava outcropping has been hollowed out underneath, over time, and when the waves come in, the water is forced up through these channels and holes in the top. Not nearly as cool as Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone, but still pretty cool. And hey, you're at the beach!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Scriptural Evidences of Revelation as the result of Bottom-up Inquiry

My non-comprehensive list of D&C revelations, which came about after some bottom-up inquiry. (Meaning, the prophet never asked God about it, until the questions were brought to his attention from various members.

My point in compiling this list was to find out whether revelation every comes about by way of bottom-up inquiry (anyone who isn't a prophet/apostle of the church), as opposed to resulting only from top-up inquiry (prophet/apostle). Clearly, there are times when someone from the general membership brings attention to a subject, which the prophet/apostles have not before considered. Clearly, it is OK for them to bring those concerns or questions to the attention of the prophet, asking for the prophet to provide some clarification, or to seek revelation from God on those subjects.

In a televised interview of President Hinkley in the 1990s, the question was posed, "At present, women are not allowed to be priests in your Church; is it possible that the rules COULD change in the future?" President Hinkley responded, "YES. But there's no agitation for that. We don't find it." And so, according to one of the most revered prophets of our time, it is possible that women will be ordained in the LDS Church. Not only can I find NO scriptural context for denying women ordination, but they are now "AGITATING" for that.

From my perspective, we should agitate for change, if we feel moved to, by the spirit. I really can't say for sure, because I was too young. But I hope that, had I been older (I was only an infant during this time), I would have AGITATED like crazy, for change regarding the racially-charged ban on ordination of Blacks. I hope I would have asked, knocked, and agitated loudly. And people were agitating for this change. Thank Heavens that Pres. Kimball had the will to ask God, and had the ears and heart to hear God's answer, finally, in 1978.
As you'll see, I found that 22 out of the 138 headings were given context, describing them as being revelations to the prophet, as the result of someone else's question. This means that approximately 16% (1 out of every 5 or 6) of the revelations from the Doctrine and Covenants, was the result of someone besides the prophet asking/knocking/agitating.

Section 5
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Harmony, Pennsylvania, March 1829, at the
request of Martin Harris.

Section 8
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet to Oliver Cowdery, at Harmony, Pennsylvania, April 1829. In the course of the translation of the Book of Mormon, Oliver, who continued to serve as
scribe, writing at the Prophet’s dictation, desired to be endowed with the gift of translation. The Lord
responded to his supplication by granting this revelation.

Section 9
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet to Oliver Cowdery, at Harmony, Pennsylvania, April 1829. Oliver is admonished to be patient and is urged to be content to write, for the time being, at
the dictation of the translator, rather than to attempt to translate.

Section 12
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet to Joseph Knight Sr., at Harmony, Pennsylvania, May 1829. Joseph Knight believed the declarations of Joseph Smith concerning his possession of the
Book of Mormon plates and the work of translation then in progress and several times had given material assistance to Joseph Smith and his scribe, which enabled them to continue translating. At
Joseph Knight’s request, the Prophet inquired of the Lord and received the revelation.

Section 14
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet to David Whitmer, at Fayette, New York, June 1829. The Whitmer family had become greatly interested in the translating of the Book of Mormon. The Prophet established his residence at the home of Peter Whitmer Sr., where he dwelt until the work of translation was carried to completion and the copyright on the forthcoming book was secured. Three
of the Whitmer sons, each having received a testimony as to the genuineness of the work, became
deeply concerned over the matter of their individual duty. This revelation and the two following
(sections 15 and 16) were given in answer to an inquiry through the Urim and Thummim. David
Whitmer later became one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon.

Section 17
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet to Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris, at Fayette, New York, June 1829,prior to their viewing the engraved plates that contained the Book of Mormon record. Joseph and his scribe, Oliver Cowdery, had learned from the translation of the Book of Mormon plates that three special witnesses would be designated (see Ether 5:2–4; 2 Nephi 11:3; 27:12). Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris were moved upon by an inspired desire to be the three special witnesses. The Prophet inquired of the Lord, and this revelation was given in answer through the Urim and Thummim.

Section 23
A series of five revelations given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Manchester, New York, April 1830, to Oliver Cowdery, Hyrum Smith, Samuel H. Smith, Joseph Smith Sr., and Joseph Knight Sr. As the result of earnest desire on the part of the five persons named to know of their respective duties, the Prophet inquired of the Lord and received a revelation for each person.

Section 32
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet to Parley P. Pratt and Ziba Peterson, in Manchester, New York, early October 1830. Great interest and desires were felt by the elders respecting the Lamanites, of whose predicted blessings the Church had learned from the Book of Mormon. In consequence, supplication was made that the Lord would indicate His will as to whether elders should be sent at that time to the Indian tribes in the West. The revelation followed.

Section 35
Revelation given to Joseph Smith the Prophet and Sidney Rigdon, at or near Fayette, New York, December 7, 1830. At this time, the Prophet was engaged almost daily in making a translation of the Bible. The translation was begun as early as June 1830, and both Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer had served as scribes. Since they had now been called to other duties, Sidney Rigdon was called by divine appointment to serve as the Prophet’s scribe in this work (see verse 20). As a preface to the record of this revelation, Joseph Smith’s history states: “In December Sidney Rigdon came [from Ohio] to inquire of the Lord, and with him came Edward Partridge. … Shortly after the arrival of these two brethren, thus spake the Lord.”

Section 39
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet to James Covel, at Fayette, New York, January 5, 1831. James Covel, who had been a Methodist minister for about forty years, covenanted with the Lord that he would obey any command that the Lord would give to him through Joseph the Prophet. (Interestingly, in Section 40, it is said that Mr. Covel reverted to his old ways.)

Section 43
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Kirtland, Ohio, in February 1831. At this time some members of the Church were disturbed by people making false claims as revelators. The Prophet inquired of the Lord and received this communication addressed to the elders of the Church. The first part deals with matters of Church polity; the latter part contains a warning that the elders are to give to the nations of the earth.

Section 51
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Thompson, Ohio, May 20, 1831. At this time the Saints migrating from the eastern states began to arrive in Ohio, and it became necessary to make definite arrangements for their settlement. As this undertaking belonged particularly to the bishop’s office, Bishop Edward Partridge sought instruction on the matter, and the Prophet inquired of the Lord.

Section 53
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet to Algernon Sidney Gilbert, at Kirtland, Ohio, June 8, 1831. At Sidney Gilbert’s request, the Prophet inquired of the Lord as to Brother Gilbert’s work and appointment in the Church.

Section 54
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet to Newel Knight, at Kirtland, Ohio, June 10, 1831. Members of the Church living in Thompson, Ohio, were divided on questions having to do with the consecration of properties. Selfishness and greed were manifest. Following his mission to the Shakers (see theheading to section 49), Leman Copley had broken his covenant to consecrate his large farm as a place of inheritance for the Saints arriving from Colesville, New York. As a consequence, Newel Knight (leader of the members living in Thompson) and other elders had come to the Prophet asking how to proceed. The Prophet inquired of the Lord and received this revelation, which commands the members in Thompson to leave Leman Copley’s farm and journey to Missouri.

Section 58
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, in Zion, Jackson County, Missouri, August 1, 1831. Earlier, on the first Sabbath after the arrival of the Prophet and his party in Jackson County, Missouri, a religious service had been held, and two members had been received by baptism. During that week, some of the Colesville Saints from the Thompson Branch and others arrived (see section 54). Many were eager to learn the will of the Lord concerning them in the new place of gathering.

Section 60
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, in Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, August 8, 1831. On this occasion the elders who had traveled to Jackson County and participated in the dedication of the land and the temple site desired to know what they were to do.

Section 66
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Hiram, Ohio, October 29, 1831. William E. McLellin had petitioned the Lord in secret to make known through the Prophet the answer to five questions, which were unknown to Joseph Smith. At McLellin’s request, the Prophet inquired of the Lord and received this revelation.

Section 74
Revelation given to Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Wayne County, New York, in 1830. Even before the organization of the Church, questions had arisen about the proper mode of baptism, leading the Prophet to seek answers on the subject. Joseph Smith’s history states that this revelation is an explanation of1 Corinthians 7:14, a scripture that had often been used to justify infant baptism. (I'm making the assumption that the questions were coming from potential converts).

Section 75
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Amherst, Ohio, January 25, 1832. This section comprises two separate revelations (the first in verses 1 through 22 and the second inverses 23 through 36) given on the same day. The occasion was a conference at which Joseph Smith was sustained and ordained President of the High Priesthood. Certain elders desired to learn more about their immediate duties. These revelations followed.

Section 89
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Kirtland, Ohio, February 27, 1833. As a consequence of the early brethren using tobacco in their meetings, the Prophet was led to ponder upon the matter; consequently, he inquired of the Lord concerning it. This revelation, known as the Word of Wisdom, was the result. (We know from other histories that JSjr became concerned about the matter of tobacco, after Emma complained about the men spitting on the floors).

Section 108
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Kirtland, Ohio, December 26, 1835. This section was received at the request of Lyman Sherman, who had previously been ordained a seventy and who had come to the Prophet with a request for a revelation to make known his duty. (Lyman was a Seventy, but this still illustrates a bottom-up flow of enquiry, preceding MANY revelations.)

Section 133
Revelation given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Hiram, Ohio, November 3, 1831. Prefacing this revelation, Joseph Smith’s history states, “At this time there were many things which the Elders desired to know relative to preaching the Gospel to the inhabitants of the earth, and concerning the gathering; and in order to walk by the true light, and be instructed from on high, on the 3rd of November, 1831, I inquired of the Lord and received the following important revelation.” This section was first added to the book of Doctrine and Covenants as an appendix and was subsequently assigned a section number.

I believe strongly in personal revelation and divine inspiration. I put great trust and faith in my God. I also believe in prophets, but I realize that they are only human, and at times they may be wholly unaware of issues, which WE can and should bring to their attention, especially when we feel moved to do so, by the Spirit.

And I'll close this post with a favorite scripture: 3 Ne 27: 28-29  
"And now I go unto the Father. And verily I say unto you, whatsoever things ye shall ask the Father in my name shall be given unto you. Therefore, ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for he that asketh, receiveth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened."

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Salt Lake City Pride Parade 2014

I took my little family to the Pride Parade, to march with Mormons Building Bridges, in support of many of our friends and family, who ever have felt marginalized, or hurt, or pushed out, either by everyday Mormons, or by the organization itself. And it was a wonderful and beautiful experience!

I am grateful for the steps the Church has taken, and the many recent messages which remind us to be kind, compassionate, and loving.

"'If they knew who I was, they would not want me there.' Unfortunately, that is a reality. This ought not to be. Is this what Jesus would do if he were a member of your ward?"
--Taken from a Salt Lake Tribune article, written by LDS Bishop Bob Rees.-- (See the full article here:

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Obedience and Agency

This link will take you straight to my youtube video. This is sort of my summary of Elder Robert D. Hales' talk, from the April 2014 conference. The idea of obedience and agency can be a little confusing, in the way it is sometimes taught.