13 August 2016

Posted in Arrangement, Art, Business

Going from Zero to One: Early Missionary Work in the LDS Church

The following is an address I gave in my congregation today. I will come back through and add my references shortly. Enjoy!

"And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good... and the evening and the morning were the first day." (Not bad for a Monday, eh?)

This famous verse of scripture does not simply evoke the wonder that we all feel when we stand on the precipice of unchartered territory. It also quietly stands as a witness to God's power, dominion, creativity, Priesthood, devotion, and faith in and for His plan and in and for His children. It typically takes a great deal of energy to take effectively nothing and create something out of it or to bring chaos to order, and the creation of the Universe was no exception. :)

God's first creative act in our temporal continuum which, according to scientists, expands to 48.5 billion light-years in any direction, defies comprehension.  It has nevertheless been pondered by the most religious and scientific minds for millennia. In the Catholic faith, we are taught that before the Universe was, there was only God and that the universe was created ex nihilo all Creation emanated from His divine substance. In our faith, Joseph Smith taught that matter can neither be created nor destroyed and that it was God's role to organize chaotic matter. Science adds quantity to the qualities already asserted by faith stating that some 14 billion years ago some yet-to-be-understood cosmic consequence took place, the universe literally burst from a single point in space and expanded faster than the speed of light to fashion stars, galaxies, planets, and even the laws of physics.

As I said, it takes a lot of energy to create something from nothing.

And while it may seem a bit grandiose to try and compare anything in our day to day lives with God's great creative act, I take strength from Elder Uchtdorf's assertion that we are creative beings because we are sons and daughters of the most creative Being ever. We truly are created in His image.

Indeed, to start anything from nothing and bring it to something, to go from zero to one, takes a great deal of energy, creativity, devotion, and faith. I'm reminded of this principle when I reflect on the early days of the restored church. Up until 1820, God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ had done a great deal of creating already, but they had a little bit more up their sleeves then perhaps the world thought at the time. At that time, they visited a young 14-year-old boy and beginning with that single act the gospel burst back onto the scene to begin the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times, nearly 14 billion years in the making expanding as fast as the legs of mortal missionaries could carry it to bring us new scripture, temples, redemption for our loved ones, and the renewed laws of God.

Joseph Smith himself declared:

 19 Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness! A voice of mercy ... a voice of truth out of the earth; glad tidings for the dead ... [and]... the living ... glad tidings of great joy. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those that bring glad tidings of good things, and that say unto Zion: Behold, thy God reigneth! 

 20 And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets—the book to be revealed. A voice of the Lord in the wilderness of Fayette ... declaring the three witnesses to bear record of the book ... The voice of Peter, James, and John in the wilderness between Harmony ... and Colesville ... on the Susquehanna river, declaring themselves as possessing the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times!

Can you hear Joseph saying "You guys get it, right? How incredibly amazing all this is?"

 21 And again, the voice of God in the chamber of old Father Whitmer, in Fayette ... and at sundry times, and in divers places through all the travels and tribulations of this Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! And the voice of Michael, the archangel; the voice of Gabriel, and of Raphael, and of divers angels, from Michael or Adam down to the present time, all declaring their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthood; giving line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little; giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope!

It took a lot of energy, creativity, devotion, and faith, though, to get to that point. It typically does, and on May 15, 1829, the world went from having no priesthood to a little priesthood, and on April 6, 1830, from having no true and living church to having one.

And at that point, it was on the shoulders of women and men empowered by God to take flight and preach His newly revealed word. Despite trials and tribulation, despite sickness and death, despite failure after failure, these brethren and sisters were charged with bringing to the world at large truths that were not present in the modern world and establishing a church that just moments before was non-existent.

Joseph Smith began with his younger brother by three years. After having baptized Oliver Cowdery, Joseph shared his testimony of the restored gospel to Samuel and ten days later he, too, was baptized on May 25, 1829, the third in this dispensation. Just one year later, the prophet Joseph called Samuel to go and be the first missionary called to preach the gospel.

In Samuel's hands, he carried copies of the Book of Mormon. Two copies were of particular effect. Samuel began his mission sleeping under a tree on the damp ground after walking 25 miles to arrive there. At his one place to possibly stay that night, he had been thrown out when he explained the Book of Mormon to the innkeeper.

However, Samuel did succeed in lending a copy to John Greene, a local minister, the following morning. Mr. Greene did not read it, but his wife Rhoda did. When Samuel came back to collect the book, he felt prompted to gift it to Mrs. Greene, Brigham Young's sister. Samuel's journal states that she was so happy that she "burst into tears". Samuel explained to Sister Greene: the most profitable manner of reading the book … which was, to ask God, when she read it, for a testimony of the truth of what she had read, and she would receive the Spirit of God, which would enable her to discern the things of God.” Later, Brother Greene read and both were baptized.

A second Book of Mormon was subsequently given to Phineas Young, Brigham Young's brother, who said: "I have got a book here called the Book of Mormon, and it is said to be a revelation, and I wish to read it and make myself acquainted with its errors, so I can expose them to the world." He read it twice in two weeks, and instead of finding errors, he became convinced of its truth and later was baptized.

Now, in a place where there was no gospel were the seeds that would eventually convert the successor to Joseph Smith, Brigham Young.

The landscape may have changed, but the principle stays the same. Let us fill the earth with the Book of Mormon. It has never been easier. With a click of a button, I can follow a prompting from the Holy Ghost and post a scripture verse to Twitter or Facebook. With a little bit more work, I can write my own testimony on my blog and add links to scriptures referenced there. Or, I can go old school and keep a Book of Mormon or two and a handful of pass-along cards in my backpack. What seeds will you plant?

Inez Knight, in 1898, was the first proselyting sister missionary for the church. Daughter of Jesse Knight, explained her first day, "At three houses they took my tract and spoke civilly to me, but at the fourth, a woman asked me who I was, and learning that I was a Latter-day Saint, she said, ‘You don’t know as much about them as I do, or you would not carry their trash around.’ I told her I had lived among them all my life and ought to know. She then asked me if I knew Mary ________. I answered no. ‘Well then you’re a liar; you either did not come from Utah or else you know her because Mormon Elders took her out six years ago.’ She followed me to each gate through the street, to inform them at each house who I was. Girl-like, I went home and cried."

Sister Knight's endured ridicule, rabble-rousing, and even mob action during her 23-month mission. She served faithfully despite the persecution, happy to be an Ambassador for Christ. Sometimes, Sister Knight felt alone in her endeavors even among her peers. At one particular missionary meeting, she was the only girl there. "I felt more conspicuous by the elders beginning their remarks; ‘My brethren and sister.’"

There can be a great deal of opposition and challenge going from zero to one, and now where there were no sister ambassadors, there was one.

The landscape may have changed, but the message is still the same. "Dare to be a Mormon, Dare to stand alone, Dare to have a purpose firm, Dare to make it known." Mormonism is widely accepted today as a legitimate religious tradition. Members are admired all over the world for their integrity and their optimism. We may sometimes feel defensive, though, where our beliefs are in stark contrast to the ever-shifting moral compass of society. We need not excuse ourselves or apologize; we need not become defensive. We must simply take a stand for truth and remember that it takes a great deal of faith, devotion, creativity, and energy to stand when no one else is. Being the first often gives permission for others to follow.

When Lorenzo Snow arrived in Italy in 1850, he had only been an apostle for one year and was charged with doing the first missionary work there and in Switzerland. Like Jeremiah prophesied would happen, the Lord sent "for many fishers..and they [fished] them; and [sent] for many hunters, and they [hunted] them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks." Following a prompting, Elder Snow began preaching in an isolated valley called Piedmont at the base of the Alps in Northern Italy. There, he found the remnant of a large religious sect, the Waldenses, who had fled there in search of religious freedom. Elder Snow felt impressed by them, stating: "With a heart full of gratitude, I find an opening is presented in the valleys of Piedmont when all other parts of Italy are closed against our efforts. I believe that the Lord has there hidden up a people amid the Alpine mountains, and it is the voice of the Spirit that I shall commence something of importance." Elder Snow eventually brought over 100 people into the church from Piedmont.

As is always the case with missionary work, it was the result of great love and devotion on his part for the people of Piedmont. On one occasion, a three-year-old boy fell sick, and Elder Snow climbed Mt. Castelluzzo to pray on his behalf.  Elder Snow regarded the healing of the child as a circumstance "of vast importance. I know not of any sacrifice which I can possibly make, that I am not willing to offer, that the Lord might grant our requests." Upon returning from the mountain, he administered to the child, who, by the next day, was completely healed.

Elder Snow climbed mountains often to reach this little crop of people, and in a little corner of the world, where there was no priesthood, now there was some.

Our landscape may not be the Alps, but we are still amongst those called by God to be fishers and hunters of men, to go into every mountain and seek them out. It has never been easier to personalize the message of the gospel to reach the most remote corners of the earth. Think about it for a moment. When you follow the prompting to share your personal gospel story on the Internet, search engines like Google pick it up. The next time someone across the world searches for the truth that you have just shared, your post will come up as a result. Your story and testimony have the power to reach millions.

And finally, John Murdock is one of those who holds the special privilege of having his missionary callings recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, a book which holds many of God's revelations given to Joseph Smith. Wouldn't that be cool to have written on paper your name and missionary calling as a result of revelation to the prophet? Oh, wait, that's exactly what happens!

Of course, in John Murdock's case, his wife had just died giving birth to twins, five weeks previous. And he had three other children aged six and younger to care for. In order to fulfill the Lord's call, Emma and Joseph themselves cared for the twins, and his three other children were put under the care of other members of the church. John left, and wouldn't see his children for nearly a year.

During that time, he preached with Hyrum Smith on his way to Missouri through Detroit. He reported preaching and baptizing much. However, when he arrived home, all was not well. While he was gone, a mob attacked Emma and Joseph, and in the midst of that attack, one of the twin babies died. Two of the three caretakers of the older children demanded payment. For two months, John worked to sort this all out, caring for his family, and then left again for a second mission, which would take him away from his children for another two years. Upon arrival home, his daughter Pheobe caught cholera and died. John left on his third mission to Ohio a few months later.

The world is a little different today then back then. Childhood death is much less common and the church is established enough that our missionaries can be young men and women or long-established couples. The principle is still the same, though: "A man filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race." We have the most important message on the face of the earth. It will take devotion, faith, creativity, and energy to get that gospel into the lives of those who it has not yet touched.

Cutting new ground is hard, going from zero to one is hard, but it is the stuff of miracles.

Of course, Jesus Christ exemplifies all of this. Where there were no perfect children of God, now there was one, where there were no resurrected children of God, now there was one, where there was no true and living church, now there was one. Where there was no hope for the human race, now there was One. And because of Christ's energy, devotion, creativity and faith, He miraculously broke the chains of death and hell and now draws all men unto Him by the force of His unmatched love. Let's us be His agents to spread the message of the gospel to the whole world, to give glad tidings. Jesus Christ lives. We have living prophets. We have His priesthood restored upon the earth. We are undeserving of it all, and yet our Savior believes in us. May we believe Him. 

07 August 2016

Posted in Arrangement, Art, Business

Teaching Work and Personal Responsibility to My Kids

A couple of weeks ago, I observed that the dishes had been piling up more than usual for the past while (Dad isn't always the most observant, so who really knows how long this had been happening? Mom probably knows, but doesn't blog, and so the point remains shrouded in mystery). What typically happens in our home is that, using our divided sink, we rinse off dirty dishes in the right-hand sink, and then place them either in the dishwasher if there is room or into the left-hand sink if not. Needless to say, this day the right-hand sink was full to overflowing with dirty dishes all over the counter for lack of space. This, of course, is my children's thought process with regard to where they play in the house as well. "Why are you guys playing with toys in the family room?" "Cuz the play room is too dirty." "Ah, thank you, that clears things up."

I digress, though. In our family, we have a weekly family meeting--every Sunday at 2pm, at least for 2016. The first part is to coordinate everyone's calendars, which we are learning is crucial with six children, the second part is to discuss needs of the family or make big plans (like if we are going on a trip or if we want to solve world hunger), and the third part is to issue allowance.

It seemed like a good time to teach the simple principles of personal responsibility and work to the kids. I observed to the kids that we needed to get back into the habit of washing our dishes regularly. You can imagine the riveted looks of anticipation on each of their faces. (Actually, when we bring up topics like these in family meeting, Remi's ears do perk up a bit, which further confirms that he is likely an alien.) "Doing a job right means doing it the right way and at the right time..." etc.

So, what should we do to get back into the habit? Seren typically chimes in at this point with something like "we should hire elephants to spray all the dishes." Remi and Lici say something like "if people don't wash their dishes, then they die." Zac typically proposes some elaborate scheme that requires a protractor, grid paper, and a "small" amount of software engineering. He also changes his proposal three or four times before he remembers to breathe. Grayden starts wandering around the house. Kristi rolls her eyes, wondering why I suffer the children to have a voice in the family. I just smile.

At some point, I believe it was Zac, amidst the absolute deluge of proposed dish-washing apparti, who proposed points. Games always work, right? So we decided to turn it into a game.

Games need levels and levels typically afford rights, privileges, or some kind of super-power. This game would only have two. "This game will be like golf." I had to explain golf to the younger kids. "Par for the course is 10. At the end of each day, Dad will check the sink for un-rinsed dishes. For every dish, you will get one stroke, which is bad." Again, re-explaining the golf principle. "The stroke applies to the entire family. If, by the end of the week, the family has a total of 10 strokes or fewer, Dad will bring home a candy bar of each child's choice from work on next Monday. That's level 1. Level 2 is 0 strokes. No un-rinsed dishes left in the sink the entire week. If you get to level 2, you can come to Dad's work and pick out the candy bar yourself." Much rejoicing ensued.

Until Lici saw a problem. "Hey, Dad, what if you leave a dish in the sink?" Of course, I was indignant. "I have never once in my life left a dish in the sink un-rinsed." "Yes, you have!" "I saw you leave a dish in the sink once!" etc., etc. Being a dad is awesome. Anyway, Lici was right, and we amended the plan to exclude Mom and Dad from the golf score. If I had that moment back, I probably would have said that if Mom or Dad leaves a dish, then that will improve the kid's score, and my kids love competing with Dad on things like this. (Any guess why???)

Anyway, some will disagree with me on the "teamwork" approach here. "Shouldn't each kid have their own score so they can each their candy bars separately?" "Doesn't this approach just teach the lazy kid that he doesn't have to worry about it because another kid (Remi) will just wash his dish for him." Perhaps. This, of course, is where Mom and Dad need to be observant enough. For example, just before the kids went to bed during that week, I'd make it a point to ask a different kid to check the sink and see if there were any dishes that anyone had forgotten. I would also loudly announce throughout the house whenever I was done with one of my own dishes, "I JUST FINISHED WITH MY DISH; I LOVE WASHING MY DISH AFTER MY MEAL BECAUSE THEN THE CEREAL DOESN'T GET CRUSTY (or whatever)." If I had thought about it a minute more, I would have said: "I JUST FINISHED WITH MY DISH, NOW I WILL LEAVE IT HERE IN THE SINK FOR SOMEONE ELSE TO DEAL WITH," and watch the reverse psych do it's work, which is my typical modus operandi. Either way, my 5-year-old (Grayden) reacted beautifully to this, and he did a great job washing his dishes throughout the week. In fact, everyone did great.

Even still, my son Remi ended up washing more than his own dishes, but that is just his personality. To him, it's not really a sacrifice to put in a little extra effort to make up for when another kid in the family forgets. Kind of like his mom.

So, it was Saturday night, and the kids ended up leaving a single bowl and spoon in the sink. It had turned out to be a late night and I'm pretty sure we all forgot.

On Sunday, it was time for family meeting again. What should we do?, I thought to myself. Just two dishes is really amazing and way better than I expected we would do. The answer was clear, though: Candy bars aren't essential, the kids made an honest mistake, but that is why we did levels. I explained to the kids that there was a bowl and dish left in the sink last night.

The kids were crestfallen. I *almost* said, "that's close enough, let's plan a day to come to Dad's work." Instead, I said, "you guys made it to level 1, great job! That's awesome, we did so much better as a family than we have ever done! So, let's decide as a family: Do you want me to bring home candy bars tomorrow from work or do you want to play the game for one more week and try for level 2?" Discussion, etc. And then voting with heads down on the table. Grady unfortunately voted for both so we had to try again. In the second round, everything worked out. 3 kids voted to try again, and 2 voted to end the game and just get the candy bars. So, we were going to make another attempt! Sweet.

I am writing this on the following Sunday morning. I'm very happy to report that the sink has been clean every night, and that we are going to plan a trip to Dad's work for the kids to pick out their own candy bar.

Of course, it doesn't always work out this way; on other occasions, we've ended up having to adjust, etc., not to appease the children, but to make sure the principle is taught. The point is not as much dishes, though, as it is teaching the value of work and personal responsibility. Today at family meeting, that's exactly what we are going to discuss.

Therefore, what?

I hope to show my kids that there are a few principles that this teaches, and that they are principles that the Lord has taught us in the scriptures.

The Lord is a God of Second Chances. Part of mercy is God not requiring absolute perfection from us because He can draw on the terms of the Atonement to make up the difference. Of course, the other part of mercy is God allowing us to try, try again until we get it right, like He did with the woman caught in adultery in John 8:6-11. God believes in our divine nature, which affords us the ability to eventually "get it right".

We can all choose to help each other out as an act of love. Even as Christ healed the boy despite the father's imperfect belief in the Savior's healing power, even as Christ appeared to Thomas despite his imperfect belief in the Savior's resurrection, we can choose to apply mercy as an act of love. Everyone in the family, other than our 18-month-old, ended up washing someone else's dishes in order to accomplish our goal.

We can learn to enjoy work by finding something we like about it. Even if we have to turn it into a game, there is always some redeeming value to work, being productive, making a positive difference, etc. Sometimes, the best way to enjoy our work is to invoke Matthew 25:40 or Mosiah 2:17. Both of these help me maintain perspective and motivation. Other times it's about seeing who we are helping, like in Alma 26:9.

We must work; our quality of life is inexorably tied to it. While I probably won't use the word "inexorably" with the kids, Galatians 6:7 is a wise principle. We don't get tomatoes when we plant watermelons and we won't get clean dishes (sustainably) by anything other than washing them. Where much is given much is required, and we in the United States have been given a lot. Further, in D&C 75:49 and D&C 42:42, the Lord commands us to productively use the bounty the Lord has given us and to not be idle.

Each of these principles, of course, points to Christ. He understood that our ultimate quality of life was inexorably tied to His work, to bring to pass our salvation. I believe that there is something in each of us that he loves and that makes His work a delight. He most certainly chooses to apply mercy because of His love for us, and he most certainly is desirous to give us a second chance. When we work and take personal responsibility, we are simply following what He first did.

16 December 2015

Posted in Arrangement, Art, Business

Senate Seat 10 - Vetting the Candidates

I've spent the last three weeks listening to and reading about the 9 Republican candidates for Senate Seat 10. I am going to list them in the order that I currently prefer them, last to first:

#9 Susan Pulsipher - Depth without breadth. Susan has been serving as the President of Jordan School District for the last five years and during that time has done a lot of good. When the subject is education, she brings a great deal of hindsight and understands the pain points of educators and parents alike. You know what that means for me? That she should keep doing that at least until her term is over. Keep up the good work, Susan!

I won't be voting for her for Senate Seat 10 because she does not have any coverage in really any of the other issues. Her most common statement to me when I asked her questions was "I'd have to research that issue more before making a comment."

#8 Hon. Rich Cunningham - More of the same. Rich has several endorsements from heavy hitters in the party. There are obviously several of our elected officials who would like to see Rich win this race. He has been serving in House district 50 for the last three years and has been a prototypical public servant to this point. When I spoke with him on the phone, he demonstrated to me his conservative voting record and his consistent communication channel with the members of his district.

Initially, his endorsements and his firm support of Aaron Osmond had decided things for me in favor of Rich. After the debate, though, he began to rub me the wrong way. I didn't like his staunch keep-your-hands-off-my-guns statement in response to a question about whether we should lift the shall-issue policy with respect to concealed carry permits. He doesn't seem to be for the free market when it comes to car dealerships and whether or not to break up that model in favor of allowing business to sell directly to consumers without government intervention. He has not convinced me that he sees his role as one of making the government smaller.

I did a bit of further research on Rich and found the following scorecard where various conservative think tanks rate members of Utah congress:

http://utleg.blogspot.com/2015/05/utah-house-scorecard-compiled-2015.html - Here, you will find Rich ranked in the bottom third with regard to conservatism.

http://www.utahtaxpayers.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/2015-Scorecard-Website.pdf - Here, you will find Rich ranked in the top third

http://sutherlandinstitute.org/uploaded_files/2015-Utah-legislative-scorecard3-30-153.pdf - Here, you will find him ranked near average

I think what this means is that Rich is a pretty average Republican and if you are generally happy with the existing thrust of the Republican party in Utah, then he would be a pretty good fit.

Personally, I'll not be voting for him.

#7 Mark Woolley - Looks a lot like Mitt Romney. I mean literally! If you took off the glasses; his face shape is the same, his hair color and style are the same. He has a background in Construction Forensics which sounds like a really cool field. Researching broken processes, etc. to see what went wrong sounds fascinating, which I suppose comes from my background as a software engineer and all the debugging I get to do.

Mark is a principled individual that doesn't seem to have the political depth that the other candidates do. I believe in his principles, but I didn't see him differentiate himself enough from the other candidates to keep me from picking between him and someone with more political experience.

#6 Jayson Teuscher - Young and upcoming. Jayson is (I believe) the youngest of the nine candidates. He has two children and one on the way, currently works as a lawyer for the LDS Church in their Riverton building. He is eloquent and passionate; he has a penchant for making sure the government is as small and as local as possible. In the debate, I agreed with nearly every statement he made. He has a much better grasp of technology than any other candidate and will use in more effectively during his term than the other candidates.

Which makes my ranking here so difficult and possibly the one that has given me the greatest pause. When  I talked with him at the Meet and Greet on December 9th, I asked him what the focus of his campaign was. He mentioned two things. The first was getting the federal government money out of the state budget. He stated that $3.5 billion of the state budget comes from government incentives, which he believes to be too much. I asked him what we should do and he said we should stand by conservative principles, not let the federal government enroach, and send the money back. I asked him what we would do in the mean time after our revenues had dropped 25%. He said that he thought the government would give the money to the state anyway or that we might have to tighten our belts for a few years while we adjusted.

This seemed completely unrealistic to me. It was this raccoon-clutch onto local government ideology that makes me think that Jayson is an excellent tactician, but a poor strategist. More time to grow and see a larger playing field is going to make him a much greater asset for our state down the road, but not today.

The second thing he mentioned was religious freedom. That caught be a bit off guard. If he were running for the US Senate, then I wouldn't have been surprised, but here in Utah? I asked him if he felt like the cause of religious freedom was under-represented in Utah or if not what was his motivation for running under the banner of religious freedom. While I agree with him that we need to preserve religious freedom, in this context, where it doesn't seem to be an issue that is really in trouble without some additional voices, his words came off to me at best as biased and at worst as pandering.

#5 Lincoln Fillmore - Education and Mr. Nice Guy. Lincoln is a really nice guy. He is principled and passionate. I believe in a room full of sycophants, Lincoln would be absolutely adored. He has a heavy background in education like Susan does, and he seems to really enjoy it there.

He has some interesting and unique ideas about what we could do give more control to the parents by creating parent-driven advisory boards at the neighborhood level.

This idea comes off to me as a bit naive. In the under-performing communities, struggling students come typically from under-educated parents. Parents of the struggling and under-educated are often at work *all the time* largely due to their own lack of education. They have two to three low-paying jobs to make ends meet, and they don't have the time to go volunteer on a board so that their "voice can be heard", etc. etc. I think that creating a board like this would likely make those families who already value education feel like their voice is heard more, but honestly their kids are already well taken care of by the current system and by their parents whether or not we introduce a platform for them to speak out.

I had a high school teacher who once complained that they only parents that come to Parent-Teacher Conferences are those whose kids are doing fine. The ones who are struggling, the ones whose parents he really wanted to visit with would never come.

There needs to be a better solution than "those who show up" or rolling out the ideal that these parents just need to value their kids' education more. We need ways that education, mentors, experts, tutors, information can be more widely available. Technology can give us that; I don't know that policy can.

Lincoln is also passionate about a few other things, but he just doesn't come off to me as an individual that is going to be heard in the legislative body.

The individuals that follow I could honestly go either way with

#4 Jay Cobb - John Stockton. Jay comes of as a hard-working, collborative purist. He's the lack guy on the court to give up the short shorts and he's the guy that folks look to for purely fundamental approach to the game. He ran for the nomination Congressional Seat 4 in 2012 against Mia Love, Carl Wimmer, and Stephen Sandstrom and clearly has a desire to bring his voice to the senate floor. Jay is a powerful speaker that draws your attention.

Jay is one who I am sorry to say I haven't been able to talk to personally, yet. We've missed each other at the Meet and Greets, I haven't seen emails from him, etc., etc. I did get to hear his position alongside the other candidates, though, at the debate. I also watched an interview with him on Youtube back from when he was running for the Republican nomination for Congressional Seat 4 back in 2012. What I noticed over and over was that Jay is not flashy (plus) and he doesn't really differentiate himself from the pack (minus) other than the way that John Stockton did by just going to work every day and getting the job done.

The only reason he's down at number 4 is because of the ways that the top three distinguished themselves to me over the last few days.

#3 Ed Loomis - Acerbic, sarcastic, but right. I've often said to my work associates that you can often get away with being a jerk if you're right. While Ed stops short of that specific label, I was reminded of the phrase when I listened to him in the debates.

He has a pretty negative view of the current legislative body. He started his campaign stating that the current promise of the Utah state government to its people is that we be members of the Jelly of the Month club. I take this to mean that he feels like what we are getting out of the government currently to be basically worthless.

Now, he is largely speaking in hyperbole except for on the topic of healthcare. Ed believes government healthcare to be an absolute mess and a total failure. He stated at the debate that "Avenue H is a laughing stock of the healthcare industry" and that $.70 of our government dollars goes to fund healthcare. I didn't verify those claims, but it is clear what would be first on his list to tackle.

What I liked most about Ed is that he was consistently able to summarize his thoughts about nearly every question in just a few words. That said, there were some places where I think folks expect him to have an opinion where he simply doesn't care. For example, he was asked what he thought of the UEA, an organization whose value several have drawn into question over the years, including my mother-in-law. He said: "I believe the US Constitution affords freedom of assembly, right? So if they want to assemble and unionize, then so be it."

He has very specific agenda items on several questions that were asked of him; however they can all be easily summed up with a few words "Ed believes in the free market." In fact, he might be so "free market" as to be a bit of an idealogue.

#2 Lynn Alvord - Sage, irritatingly accurate wisdom. Lynn has a background as an inner ear researcher. He puts a great deal of focus on a recent study of marijuana and its effects on the individual and on the public good in Colorado since its policy changes regarding its prohibition. There, he says he discovered the lack of scientific rigor that is being undertaken when it comes to important issues like this at the legislative level.

What I particularly liked about Lynn was the care he consistently took with me and at the debate to show both sides of the issue. He didn't get lots of overwhelming rounds of applause at the debates, largely because he never threw any red meat out to the crowd. Instead, he patiently and thoughtfully demonstrated that the issues aren't as completely black and white as we sometimes like to make them.

For example, one question was "Where do you fall on the sides of the public good vs. individual rights?" Almost without thinking, Ed Loomis said "individual rights". When it was Lynn's turn, he talked about his marijuana research and how it taught him that there is a balance. Smoking marijuana while driving (as an individual right) has shown to increase automobile accidents in Colorado (a negative impact to public good). I was very pleased with this response because individuals rights are not the sacred ark that we sometimes make them out to be. They are certainly an ideal to pursue, but so is the public good.

I also appreciated his position on immigration. I believe that there needs to be more forgiveness, more acceptance, and I believe there are major charitable and religious organizations who would agree with Lynn.

I find it interesting that he has an endorsement from Jake Garn, though I didn't get a chance to contact Mr. Garn to ask him why.

He is the strongest advocate of fiscal conservatism in the bunch and he has gone on record stating that he feels taxes could be lowered from their current levels due to existing surpluses. AFAIK, he is the only candidate who has done that thus far.

#1 Aleta Taylor - I'm really low on time now, so I'll be super-brief. Aleta has a long history of public service in various capacities, several of them having no glamour or fame or prestige attached to them. She served in each one with a hard-working I-serve-the-people attitude. She worked on the Mosquito Abatement committee (who does that?) and talks about the committee's accomplishments with pride (who does that??). Who likes talking about mosquito abatement?

She stated in the debate something that I've felt for many years, which is that true home ownership should be possible. We specifically moved into an area where there was no HOA because I didn't want to be beholden to one even after my house was paid off. The idea of getting to a point where the government wouldn't come after me for property taxes either was refreshing.

On the downside, she does a lot of name dropping, etc. I was turned off when she went out of her way to mention that she'd named her first son Reagan after President Reagan.

Recently, her emails have come out with detailed citizen committee plans that I really liked.

My wife was a county delegate before I was, and when I mentioned to her that I was really impressed with Aleta, she said "Oh, that's who I voted for last time!"

More to come if I find a second...