Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Leno, shopping, and reminiscing

Sharon and I met up in Burbank to go to a taping of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. It ended up being really fun--I had VIP seats, so we were on the front row and got to shake Jay's hand. Before the show started, they were asking for people from the audience to get up and share a talent. The stage manager asking people to come up pointed at me and said, "Come on, you've got talent, don't you? Don't you sing or dance?" I just laughed. Then Sharon and I sat racking our brains on what we could sing together. We didn't end up doing it, but realized half-way through the show that we should have jumped up on stage and done a country dance lift! There are two we have done together that would have been perfect!! We spent the rest of the show regretting not doing it. But fun anyway! The show was great--I love Kevin Eubanks, and even Ross the intern was on today--I love him. He was my first "celebrity" sighting here in LA at Trader Joe's last semester. Random side note--Jay Leno has these beautiful blue sparkling eyes. It was the first thing Sharon and I noticed.

After the show it was off to do some "special" shopping that Sharon and I have meant to do for quite some time! We ended up buying matching items and had a fantastic last hangout...at least for now--we are determined to run into each other again someday. You never know where life will take you. I am leaving for Utah Thursday, en route to Moscow Monday. She will be leaving for France in three weeks, then is moving to New York "for at time."

I will definitely miss her! We have had so many great talks and memories--the first time I met her was at a stake conference when I was sitting right behind her. We didn't have much of a chance to talk until we ended up on the same boating outing at Marina del Ray in November. We were fast friends after this, always sitting together at break the fast and hitting up random Mormon parties--as well as a Top Gun party and some fabulous times out country dancing! We even came up with fake names--I was Kimber, she was Jewel, and our friend Kiki decided to go as Bella.

The first time the three of us went country dancing was at Cowboy Palace. We met a nice man named Tony, and a crazy German/French guy who danced the night away with us. I also met a Mitt Romney look-alike. Oh so fun! We were the youngest people in the place and definitely got hit on quite a bit!! It was here that Sharon and I first tested out our compatability in doing lifts together. The first try ended up with both of us on the floor, with everyone asking if we were okay. I was laughing hysterically--I had jumped to far passed her and pulled her down on top of me on the floor. I know the guys were impressed :) We got it on the next try, and I have been impressed with her skills ever since!

Our next country outing took us to Cowboy Country in Long Beach--my favorite venue for country dancing!! We ended up going there twice. We learned some great line dances, and I danced with some really amazing dancers--we did a lot of two step, and even squeezed in some swing.

Some of my favorite times with Sharon have been just sitting and talking--about boys, the gospel, what we want out of life. An amazing moment for me was being able to be there at the Los Angeles temple when Sharon received her endowments. I am so impressed with her understanding of the gospel and the preparation she put in to being ready to go.

After hanging out with Sharon, I took off for a group meeting. I sat down and said, "I have to admit, I know nothing about Hamas." To which Jon and Sofie replied, "Hezbollah!" Definitely good to know who you are talking about! I got a great mini history lesson on Hezbollah from John, and a recommendation for a book I can read about it this summer. I am also looking for other good books about the political histories of different areas of the world.

Remember Lot's Wife

Some thought that have become especially meaningful as I prepare for a new experience in Moscow...

From a talk Jeffrey R. Holland gave at a BYU devotional January 13, 2009:

"Surely, surely, with the Lord's counsel 'look not behind thee' ringing clearly in her ears, Lot's wife, the record says, 'looked back,' and she was turned into a pillar of salt...I am not going to talk to you about the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah...I am not even going to talk about obedience and disobedience. I just want to talk to you for a few minutes about looking back and looking ahead...

Apparently what was wrong with Lot's wife was that she wasn't just looking back; in her heart she wanted to go back. It would appear that even before they were past the city limits, she was already missing what Sodom and Gomorrah had offered her...It is possible that Lot's wife looked back with resentment toward the Lord for what He was asking her to leave behind...So it isn't just that she looked back; she looked back longingly. In short, her attachment to the past outweighed her confidence in the future. That, apparently, was at least part of her sin.

So, as a new year starts, and we try to benefit from a proper view of what has gone before, I plead with you not to dwell on days now gone, nor to yearn vainly for yesterdays, however good those yesterdays may have been. The past is to be learned from but not lived in. We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences but not the ashes.

And when we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead, we remember that faith is always pointed toward the future. Faith always has to do with blessings and truths and events that will yet be efficacious in our lives...[Lot's wife] doubted the Lord's ability to give her something better than she already had. Apparently she thought--fatally, as it turned out--that nothing that lay ahead could possibly be as good as those moments she was leaving behind...

Some of you were having thoughts such as thes: Is there any future for me? What does a new year or a new semester or a new major or a new romance hold for me? Will I be safe? Will I be sound? Can I trust in the Lord and in the future? Or would it be better to look back, to go back, to go home?

To all such of every generation, I call out, 'Remember Lot's Wife.' Faith is for the future. Faith builds on the past but never longs to stay there. Faith trusts that God has great things in store for each of us and that Christ truly is the 'high priest of good things to come.' "


Change of Topics

I decided last night to change my research topic for my Eastern Europe public diplomacy class. I was talking to my mom on the phone about how much I have enjoyed doing research for my transnational diplomacy class on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' emergency response efforts, and said that it was too bad I hadn't already done my internship for the summer so that I could write my E. Europe paper on the LDS Church in Russia.

Then it hit me--why not write the paper now and try and implement my pd campaign proposal this summer?

I came up with a rough outline and am thinking--hey this just might work after all.

Mormons in Russia

I- Introduction (covering resurgence of faith in the early 90s in Russia)

II- Obstacles to religious organizations (hostility from the government, including visa reqs, etc. I will use this to make a case for public diplomacy--namely that targeting the public will be more effective than targeting government)

III- An overview of what the LDS have done so far (including how they established a presence in Russia, what different tactics they have used to spread their name-brand recognition, what they are doing to draw people's interests-activities like free English classes, sports nights for youth, service activities, musical firesides)

IV- Proposed plan for future pd efforts (a new book has been written by an academic of history on the Church of Jesus Christ in Russia. It makes a positive case for Mormons in Russia and the good they have done so far. The author is not a member, which I think lends greater credibility. I think a viable pd campaign would include having him give lectures at universities--targeting Moscow, Petersburg, and Rostov. If these are successful I would recommend moving next to Samara, Yekaterinburg, Novosobirsk, and possibly Vladivostok. These are headquarters for missions and would boost missionary visibility in the area, as well as open up people to talking with them. I will also give indicators/ways to evaluate success)

V- Conclusion (How the Church can build on the foundation that already exists to strengthen their presence)

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Russian Diplomat's Description of Mormons circa 1980s

I came across this as I was doing research for a term paper. You can imagine my surprise at finding that a Russian diplomat had not only heard about Mormons, but had a fairly good idea of some of our doctrines.

"In his book titled The Complete Christian, Elder Robert S. Wood of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, and former international affairs advisor, recounts an experience he had with a Russian diplomat... “In the mid-1980s,” he writes, “I participated in a series of discussions between officials from the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The subject of the talks was the possibility of naval cooperation between America, Britain, and Russia.” On one of these occasions during the course of the negotiation process, Elder Wood happened upon the leader of the Soviet delegation, who was lost in deep thought. Their conversation turned to religion. The Russian diplomat then asked Elder Wood if he had ever heard of Joseph Smith. Taken aback by the question, Elder Wood answered that not only had he heard of Joseph Smith but that he was also a member of the Church he founded. Having been introduced to Mormonism by a book entitled A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, the Russian diplomat proceeded to offer his profound, sincere summary of this religion’s meaning:

“As I understand it, Joseph Smith brought together two ideas that are generally in conflict with each other and combined them in a remarkable synthesis. On the one hand, the Latter-day Saints believe that mortality is but a moment in eternity and that men and women do not spring into existence at birth and are annihilated at death. We existed before birth and shall persist after death. Moreover, there is a link between those who are yet to be born, those who now live, and those who have passed beyond the grave; there is, in fact, communication across those seeming barriers. Some who have lived have returned and communicated with the living, and there is a great cooperative enterprise that links the unborn, the living, and the dead, aimed at their mutual salvation and perfection.”
“At the same time,” he continued, “the Latter-day Saints seem very concerned with improving the lot of mankind in mortality. They do not believe that happiness is simply for another world but needs to be established here through common temporal as well as spiritual efforts. You seem to be community builders. You’re very pragmatic as well.”


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Why we read...

A great topic in the Los Angeles Times opinion section today on why we read. I loved it! Perhaps because I like thinking that other people can love something as much as I do. Or maybe it's because as humans we are constantly seeking affirmation from someone much like ourselves. Or maybe I loved it because the respondents all said things I feel in ways I would never have though to say them. Whichever it is, I came away with a sudden craving for a library, musty old books, and wishing I had time enough to just sit on the porch and read.