Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Bright Side of the American Music Awards: Years of Jihadist Propaganda Now Irrelevant

I've often been overly critical of Hollywood and the debauchery of our pop-culture stars, so it's time I look for the positive in what they do. Take the recent American Music Awards, broadcast by ABC television, which shocked many viewers with raunchy performances by lewd women and men. I won't rehash what you've probably already read or seen (over and over, inescapably - even got bombarded with lewd clips on TV in a waiting room while trying to take my son to the doctor - for those of you in the "just turn it off" crowd), but performers such as Rihanna and Adam Lambert seemed to go out of their way to push the limits of broadcastable vulgarity in their performances, and several others seemed eager to add a gutter aroma to their art.

So yes, I could sit here and once again whine about the degrading state of our media and the icons of the anything-for-a-buck entertainment industry. But today I'm taking the high road and reporting on a positive aspect of the American Music Awards, based on recent intelligence from a questionable source. It appears that the AMA broadcast was a major setback for at least one Al-Qaeda jihadist group that had been spending millions of dollars over the past two years in preparing a propaganda film to stir up hate against the U.S. Just as they were making the final edits and preparing the global release of their ultimate shock-and-awe propaganda film, "American Idolaters: The Great Satan's Biggest Musical Hits," the American Music Awards came out and rendered all their work irrelevant, and suddenly far too mild to have any effect.

Take that, Al-Qaeda.

On the other hand, I miss the good ol' days of yore when at least some folks in the mainstream media were patriotic enough to try to make American look good in times of war rather than further undermine our global image. What are the Muslim people of the world to think when we honor such shameless people as our celebrities on national television? May they have the good sense to recognize that what ABC considers normal and acceptable is not only reprehensible to Muslims, but to many Americans also, and not just Christians. If you are in a distant part of the globe feeling outraged at American values, rest assured that women here in Wisconsin rarely go out in public dressed in nothing but a few strands of adhesive tape. Women in Alaska are said to be even more modest. Many women and men choose modesty and decency even in places where debauchery won't give you frostbite.

In the end, though, the "just turn it off" crowd has a valid point. Do your part for the war on terror. Turn off ABC and their collaborators in offensive media. It's the patriotic thing to do. If they go under, maybe America's image can rise once again.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pondering "The Inn of the Sixth Happiness": A Tribute to a Brave Missionary to China, Gladys Aylward


This week my wife and I watched a marvelous old movie from 1958, "The Inn of the Sixth Happiness" starring Ingrid Bergman. The movie about a female missionary's amazing adventures and heroism in China in the 1930s was trashed by one major media source for not having a believable plot--the critic being unaware that it depicted the true story of a feisty English woman, Gladys Aylward.

The movie has its corny elements, too much poorly spoken Chinese, and a love story that is greatly exaggerated. In fact, it horrified the very virtuous Gladys to learn that the movie about her life included some "love scenes" (consisting primarily of violin music and some shy romantic glances gradually leading to a profession of love). But the movie depicts numerous events from her life and, in spite of errors that bothered its subject, seems to be much more realistic than most movies based on true stories. It was also a very strange and foreign movie, in terms of modern standards, for the lead role was a zealous, faithful Christian who was not a con artist, child abuser, or oppressive villain. She was sincere, devout, honest, faithful, and loving. Yes, this film actually came from Hollywood--obviously from a completely different and long-lost generation of movie makers.

Like Latter-day Saint pioneers, Gladys was part of a dangerous trek across hostile territory to lead a people to safety. It was in 1938 as her region was being invaded by Japan that she led 94 children to safety over the mountains to Xian, traveling a distance of about 100 miles. These were orphans that she cared for in her inn, the Inn of the Eighth Happiness (inexplicably demoted to the "Sixth Happiness" by Hollywood for the movie). She was driven by her faith and the desire to bless others and give hope to the next generation.
She had become a citizen of China in 1936 and her activities in support of the local populace, including a bit of spying on the Japanese made it unsafe to remain in Yangchen. Being warned of a bounty for her capture, dead or alive, by Colonel Linnan a member of the local Chinese resistance, she gathered up the children and narrowly escaped the city.

Unable to use roads or transportation, she was forced to lead her children, on foot, over the mountains to the safer province of Sian some 100 miles distant. The trek took twenty seven days in which they had to endure the elements and many hardships. She herself had become ill en route and when they finally arrived safely, she collapsed. The doctors were amazed by the feat as she was suffering from typhus, pneumonia, a relapsing fever, malnutrition, and supreme exhaustion.

She regained some strength but never recovered totally from her illness yet this didn't stop her from continuing her ministry, now located in Sian. She started a church and once more she was sharing the Gospel in the villages, prisons and among the sick and helpless. (Source: TLogical.net.)
After Mao took over China, she fled to England, seeking to bring the Gospel to the nation where she sensed great spiritual needs. She wanted to return to China later but was denied entry, so she settled in Taiwan in 1953.

She died in 1970 is buried in Taipei County, Taiwan. She refused honor and recognition and simply did all she could to serve God.

You can listen to some of her sermons late in life at SermonIndex.net. I like the way she teaches!

Still Pondering the Complexity of Transgender Issues

In a previous post from July 2009, I discussed some of the new things I was learning and pondering regarding transgender issues. I have learned much from a new friend, a transgender Christian, whose personal journey has opened my eyes to some of the complexities and challenges that can occur in mortality.

Since then, I've heard from a transgender Latter-day Saint who kindly gave me permission to share a little of her story, as follows:
I recently read your article on transgender issues. I am what many consider trans and I am also a faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I am a Male to Female member.

No, I don't have an axe to grind. I thank you for your article! Well written and sensitive. I figured I might be able to shed more light on things.

The true transsexual is not a sexual deviant. I have kept my baptismal covenants and refuse to have sexual relations until I am married. And yes I can legally get married as a female. What happened to me was not a twist of fate...or an act of nature. It happened because my mother took a drug called DES. A drug marketed in the 60s to prevent miscarriage.

That drug was later classified as a mutagen...a teratogen. Translation? It screws with a developing baby to the extent it can alter gender attributes.

We do the best with what we are handed and we are at the whim of the evil designs of man. God did not make this happen to me...but as we both know this world is not a perfect world. If it were perfect...it would not be that good of a test.

Despite the hell I have endured I have chosen to keep the Lord and the church near me. What and who I am is not a contradiction in the terms of the church unless I make it so. For example flaunting it...making a big deal about it or acting immorally. That is why I am sending this to you privately because it is a private matter. My ward does not know about my past except for the RS president...Bishop and Stake pres.

Any way...there you go. If you have questions feel free to ask.

--Sarah
Thank you, Sarah, for an example of handling an incredibly complicated and unfair situation in life with courage and faith. I cannot comprehend what you've gone through and truly don't understand these issues, but increasingly recognize that there can be genuine exceptions to my conception of how things should be. Yes, I believe that gender is a divine attribute and existed before we were born. But it also seems that mortality makes it possible for all manner of challenges and exceptions to arise with these mortal shells we carry, just as can happen with other aspects of the human experience, so I suggest we need to be extremely cautious and reticent regarding our superficial assumptions about the transgendered. Your example of holding on to your religion and living the moral standards of the Church, even in a situation where most others are surely prone to misunderstand, may be among the truly choice stories of faith that future generations should know.

2012 Update: An insightful post on some of these complex issues is "Jim's View" on the LDS Gender Blog.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Blessing the Lives of War-Torn Children with Music: The Shropshire Music Foundation

One of the best services for on-demand television comes from BYU, where BYU.tv offers an elegant system to watch either live broadcasts or previously played programming. This morning I watched the BYU-Hawaii devotional under live programming for Saturday, Nov. 14 at 3:00 a.m. The speaker is Dr. Susan Shropshire, the amazing LDS woman whose compassion for the victims of war in Kosovo expanded from a short vacation trip meant to help a few people with a little physical help, into a massive effort over the past decade to bless thousands of lives by bringing music into the lives of displaced children.

In the devotional broadcast, she tells her story and the story of some of the people she has worked with. It is inspiring, informative, and deeply moving. You will also learn more about what it means to be a child in a refugee camp--something that so many of my friends have been through right here in Wisconsin, among the Hmong people.

The Shropshire Music Foundation provides free musical instruments and instruction to former child soldiers and refugees in some of the world’s most war-torn places: Uganda, Kosovo, and Northern Ireland. Since 1999, more than 10,000 young people have been taught, and they are finding that through music they can bring healing, hope, and peace to their communities. God bless them! You can help, too.

You can also become a fan on the Facebook page for the Shropshire Music Foundation.

A great example of creative use of one's talents to bless others. Thanks, Sister Shropshire!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Laban's Sword of Precious Steel: Increasingly Plausible

I've had a number of people complain about the steel sword that Laban had in 600 B.C., allegedly long before steel would be invented. It's a topic I address in my LDSFAQ page on metals and the Book of Mormon. Today I found one more interesting tidbit in a scholarly book an ancient iron and steel.

At Google Books, you can preview Iron and Steel in Ancient Times by Vagn Fabritius Buchwald (Volume 29 of Historisk-filosofiske Skrifter, Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2005) to find interesting information on ancient steel. For example, on page 72, I found this:
In the Homerian epic the Odyssey we have an exceptional hint at the blacksmith's cunning treatment of steel, when Odysseus with his men blinded the one-eyed Cyclops Polythemus. "And as when a smith dips a great adze in cold water amid loud hissing to temper it--for therefrom comes the strength of iron--even so did his eye his around the stake of olive-wood" (Odyssey, 9. song: 391. translated by A.T. Murray, Loeb Classical Library).

The archaic period described in the Odyssean narrative is difficult to fit in time, since the Odyssey is a conglomerate of tales, first edited and issues as a total of 24 songs in the 4th century B.C. However, the general scarcity of iron and the common references to weapons of bronze point to the 8th or 7th centuries. No doubt, quench-hardening of steel as described in the epic had been well known for centuries before the poem was conceived. Hardening was, however, restricted to tools, particularly to knives, files, and chisels, only occasionally including a dagger, a sword or an axe.
Thus, the ancient book, The Odyssey, apparently refers to steel manufacturing that was known in the Mediterranean region well before the time of Lehi. Hardened steel was not common, though, and was used for only a few objects, including an occasional sword. A steel sword in Jerusalem in Nephi's day may indeed have been rare, but known, and thus it is entirely plausible for the Book of Mormon to mention a sword of a significant and wealthy military leader that was made of "the most precious steel" (1 Nephi 4:9). Not the whole sword, but the blade, where hard steel would be especially desirable.

The ancients in Nephi's day had the ability to carburize iron, but that does not mean that iron or steel was commonly available. The steel of Laban's sword was "most precious," clearly not a commodity item. In fact, subsequent appearances of iron in the Book of Mormon rate it with precious metals and riches rather than treating it as an ordinary material, as if metallurgical skills were largely lost in Nephite culture sometime after Nephi's era.

Incidentally, a photo of a gold-hilted sword with a blade made of meteoric iron is available in Volume 3 of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism under the article, "Sword of Laban." The sword comes from the tomb of Tutankhamun, who died in 1325 B.C., over 700 years before Nephi saw the sword of Laban. For more information on the ancient use of iron and steel prior to Nephi's time, see Oleg D. Sherby and Jeffrey Wadsworth, "Damascus Steels," Scientific American 252 (February 1985): 112-20; J. P. Lepre, The Egyptian Pyramids: A Comprehensive Illustrated Reference (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1990), 245; Immanuel Velikovsky, Ramses II and His Time (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1978), 222-37.

Another useful paper on ancient steel is "Steel in Ancient Greece and Rome" by E.A. Ginzel, 1995. Ginzel argues that early forms of steel were known and made by the ancients, though not well understood.

While most ancient works of iron or steel are not likely to survive because of corrosion, one recent well-preserved find of an ancient iron sword from the Middle East is reported by Avraham Eitan, "BAR Interviews Avraham Eitan: Antiquities Director Confronts Problems and Controversies," interview by Hershel Shanks, Biblical Archaeology Review 12/4 (1986): 30-38, as discussed in the new book, Pressing Forward with the Book of Mormon, edited by John W. Welch and Melvin J. Thorne, Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1999. A large iron sword, three feet long and about three inches wide was excavated at Vered Jericho (a place near Jericho in Israel). It has a bronze haft with a wooden grip. The strata from which the sword was excavated dates to the late seventh century BC. This sword is unlike the shorter daggers that are normally depicted in art from this part of the world. It provides evidence that iron (steel?) swords of large size were known in Nephi's day. (See also William J. Adams Jr., Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 2, No. 2, 1993, pp. 194-195.)

Ancient iron often had carbon levels around 0.05% to 1%, especially when it was in contact with charcoal during manufacturing. That is consistent with typical definitions of carbon steel (an iron-carbon alloy with about 0.05 to 2% carbon), so it may be appropriate to call such iron "steel"--especially if it has been carburized or otherwise treated to increase its strength. But iron or low-carbon steel rusts easily and is rarely preserved for archeologists to find. And for a long time, it was known but rare or precious, and thus unlikely to be left lying around for easy discovery centuries later. This contributes to the many gaps in our understanding of metals in the ancient world. Nevertheless, there is enough evidence now of steel making before Laban's time that his ownership of a sword with a blade of "the most precious steel" should no longer be a sticking point for those exploring the Book of Mormon. In light of what we know now, it's a subtle statement of great plausibility--the kind of thing that now has to be discounted as just a lucky guess.

The reference to steel "smelted" from a hill by the very ancient Jaredites in the Book of Mormon is probably a reference to meteoric iron, which was known and prized by the Olemcs in the Americas. Meteoric iron is an alloy typically high in nickel content that some experts classify as "steel." Iron elsewhere in the Book of Mormon appears to be a precious metal whose knowledge presumably was brought to the Americas by the early Nephites but became a lost technology--something that happens far more frequently in history than you might think. We would be glad to encounter Mesoamerican finds of iron artifacts someday, but since they were rare and since Mesoamerica has the kind of climate where precious ancient iron wouldn't last long, the chances of such a find cannot be high if, in fact, the Book of Mormon describes real people and real events on a small part of this continent.

Off Topic: Reviewers Needed

Warning: uninspiring secular content! Reader discretion advised.

I know at least some of you are interested in the area of business growth, innovation, new product development, and entrepreneurship, because you've called me or emailed me for tips and advice, or in some cases have brought very interesting opportunities to my attention. I'm hoping some of you might do me a favor now. With the recent release of Conquering Innovation Fatigue, the book I've been working on for the past 3 years, one of our needs is to get further reviews posted at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

If you'd like to review but don't have a copy, I'll send out a copy to the first, say, three or four people who express a willingness and ability to write a review. Tell me a little about yourself, and if you've done other reviews at Amazon already, that's a real plus. Contact me at jeff at jefflindsay.com, with "REVIEW" in the subject line.

You can get some of the content by previewing it at Amazon (use http://tinyurl.com/nofatigue, and there are some free chapters over at InnovationFatigue.com. Naturally, I'm hoping for fair reviews, like the ones that several innovation experts have already posted at Amazon (mostly 5 stars, gratefully), but please be honest rather than merely kind.

Meanwhile, you should know that the book is a perfect gift for the innovators, leaders, researchers and government officials in your life. Great for birthdays, Christmas, weddings, and, yes, even divorces. For divorce gifts, buy two--his and hers. But if it brings the couple back together and saves yet another marriage, let me know and I'll buy a redundant book back from them.

On a more serious note, LDS folks might be interested to see the two-sides of the Philo Farnsworth story I explore regarding his own painful journey in facing, conquering, and possibly succumbing to innovation fatigue. Was this Mormon man the true inventor of television? It's a complex question--and much can be learned in exploring that.

Please forgive this largely "off topic" post. But rest assured that it was inspired by very sincere pride and selfishness.

Basic info on the book is given at JeffLindsay.com and at InnovationFatigue.com, which also has the supporting blog.

Update: The original version of this post offered a second copy of the book or another perk to those who bought a copy to review. The previous offer still stands for those who chose to act on it--please let me know--but to avoid the appearance of compensating people based on the content of the review, I've modified the offer so that I'll send out copies to some potential reviewers who are then free to say whatever they want, which was my intention all along. Unfortunately, the ratio of received reviews to sent out copies has been disappointingly low, so I'm hoping that if you accept a book, that you'll take the time post a sincere review, preferably both at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Meanwhile, if you have suggestions for book promotion, let me know. Even though I'm thrilled that what I consider to be the world's leading publisher in this area has taken on our book, the bulk of the marketing is up to the authors, and, as usual, I'm out of my league here and could use some help.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Do Big Tragedies Negate Small Miracles?

In a previous post (currently on hold while I consult with the source on what details I should share), I referred to the many small miracles that have blessed people I know and love. In one recent example, a mother I know was staying at a friend's home when she heard a voice say "Run!" That helped her recognize her bold little toddler was not at her side but in danger, and she ran to find a stairway door had been opened by someone else and her wobbly little son, a boy with no respect for gravity, was standing at the top, toes over the edge, ready to plunge forward toward bare wooden stairs leading to a concrete basement floor. She snatched him in time, courtesy of a small little miracle. I mentioned that we don’t know when and why these small miracles come, and recognized that life is often filled with pain and sorrow even for the best parents, but when the little miracles come, we should rejoice for those who receive them. When I wrote that, I expected to get the response that I have often received when referring to a miracle that someone experiences. Skeptics will point to some of the tragedies that occur and insinuate that that miracles can’t be real, otherwise why would God help someone with something minor when such great sorrows and pains exist in the world? But the response was more painful or bitter than I expected. I should have anticipated some of the pain that might have been stirred up:
..and yet my son died. Am I to assume that I didn't listen to the Spirit in some way to save him? Or that Heavenly Father just didn't care enough to send any guidance?

Good to know Heavenly Father was more concerned about the possible broken arm [that child] than about my son getting the organ transplant that would have saved his life. . . .

Stories like these are equivalent to a slap in the face for all of us who have [unhappy] endings to our fairytales. It's great that [one child] wasn't hurt...but surely you can see that what the flipside of it implies???
Ouch. I’m so sorry about this. The loss of a child is one of the great tragedies of mortality. There are no easy answers, except for the far-off answer that comes through Christ and the hope of resurrection and reunion. Another great tragedy is the spiritual loss that comes when a child ultimately rejects God and the blessings of the Gospel. Again, only patience and love can be offered with hope that there might be a return one day.

Do these tragedies, though, negate the reality of small or even large miracles? Can God help someone by answering a prayer, healing an illness, or helping a car to start, when many are about to die from accidents, disease, or even terrorism in Texas? Is God unjust or unfair because He sometimes reaches down and lets the current course of mortality be stayed in an obvious way for some purpose we cannot understand but can only gratefully accept?

Thousands across the earth were blind or going blind 2,000 years ago when Christ touched the eyes of one blind man to give him sight. Did God love the others less than the one rare man who was healed? Thousands, maybe millions, across the earth were hungry or thirsty as He attended a wedding feast in Cana and turned water into wine. Does God love the hungry and destitute less because they were not given miraculous drink? If not even a sparrow can fall to the ground without God’s awareness (Matt. 10:29), we must understand that we, His children, are known, noticed, and loved, regardless of what trials we must endure. Shall we be skeptical of God’s love or His miracles because their more outward manifestations are not commonly and uniformly distributed according to our sensibilites?

Mortality will leave all of us bitter and scarred if we cannot accept the diversity of gifts, blessings, trials, lifespans, ancestries, and genes that God lets us have.

Miracles, large or small, stand out. They punctuate the normal course of the painful mundane world to occasionally, even rarely, teach us or remind us of God’s reality or serve some other purpose. We cannot expect them in all cases, every day, for all of us. We have no basis to demand them by right. Remember, His love is no less, His presence no more remote, for the child that dies than for the one that is spared, for His work is not about keeping us wrapped up in our mortal shells and the little things of earth life, but in our ultimate destiny in His endless presence. His timetable and plans for each of us take us through wildly different routes in our journeys. Some routes are tragic and seem senselessly painful, especially when the cruelty of man is involved, men who have abused the cruel gift of free agency to hurt others, for a terrible consequence of the merciful freedom He gives us to choose Him is also the freedom to reject Him and crucify His son anew by abusing His other children also created in His image. But we are also promised that the Atonement of Christ is sufficient and in the end, as we come into His presence, all tears can be wiped away.
And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations.

He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.

And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation. (Isaiah 25: 7-9)
I rejoiced that one mother was miraculously aided: a voice spoke to her, “Run!”–how obvious can you get? But as I wrote of that miracle, I recognized that other outcomes are possible. Equally deserving and loving parents with equally wonderful children have suffered tragedy under similar circumstances. Indeed, I left out one detail in the story I related. It was especially poignant for me because my wife and I faced a similar danger years ago at the home of some wonderful devout Christians. During a Christmas party there that we attended while striving to be good friends and missionaries, a door to their basement was left open and our little fearless toddler son waddled over to the top of the stairs. He was about the same age as the toddler that was the subject of my last post. My wife spotted him just in the nick of time – well, almost. As she rushed toward him and reached out to snatch him, she missed by inches, a fraction of a second, and watched in horror as he stepped forward and fell head-first down the hard wooden stairs and crashed against the concrete floor at the bottom. We were horrified. We felt like the worst parents ever. We wondered how this could happen, especially when we were there trying to do good and help others, and then this. We were so worried, afraid he might have broken bones, a damaged brain, or even face death. He survived and was soon well, and perhaps that was miracle enough. But we heard no voice to get us there in time, saw no miraculous delay in our son’s trajectory, no hidden angel’s hand to hold him back. He was hurt, but our pain may have been even greater.

The fact that one child was spared a similar fate was not meant as condemnation to those of us who have faced and suffered the normal course of gravity and dare-devil toddlers. It was a miracle, an unusual departure from the normal course. How else can you account for the vocal command to run, a command which appears to have been perfectly timed for maximum drama and gratitude. To me, it does not mean that one child is more precious than another, or one parent necessarily better or more righteous than another, or that God is unjust in allowing danger to be ever present without omnipresent angels imposing a record of perfect safety. What happened to one mother was rare, unusual, and a cause for rejoicing, not guilt trips, pain, and bitterness. It does not mean that one person or family was more righteous or more loved than another. We do not understand why, but can only be grateful. We could speculate, of course, and even wonder if part of its purpose was to help some of us consider the implications of small miracles in the face of large tragedies, especially when I had a contrasting event under such similar circumstances.

Referring to some Galilaeans who had been slaughtered by Pilate while seeking to worship God, Jesus said, “Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13: 1-3). And regarding 18 people who died in his area when a tower in Siloam fell, he said, “Think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13: 4-5). Towers fall, children fall, and people die, regardless of who is righteous and who is not. It is not death but rebellion against God that is the real tragedy.

If we only understood more and saw more clearly, we might recognize the hand of God in numerous things around us and rejoice more fully in the miracles of life, of love, of beauty, and of families. We might recognize small or even great miracles even in the painful trials he allows us to experience, some of which may have been tailored for us in His grace. We may be blind to most of the miracles that make our lives, but that should not makes us doubt or even be bitter when His kindness is more obvious to some.

Praise God for each child spared and for each parent given miraculous guidance. Weep for the larger number who are not spared. Do our best to keep doors to danger closed and children close enough to us that we will not need an angel’s voice to best fulfill our duties. And may we never judge or condemn those who are not the recipients of yearned-for miracles, or begrudge those who are.

Meanwhile, we must not lose our bearings and sail away from God because we journey in a world where oceans of trouble and islands of miracles coexist on a map wildly unlike what we would draw if we were the cartographer.

Monday, November 02, 2009

The Miracle of the Pamphlet

My missionary son and his companion recently experienced one of the many tiny miracles that occur when we seek to share the Gospel with others. Here's a condensed version of his story from a while ago, minus some identifying information:

A few weeks ago, the elders in a neighboring area . . . contacted a girl. They set up a time for her to come to the chapel and start meeting with them. After they parted ways, [she] decided she'd probably just forget about them and stand them up.

A day or so later, [my companion] and I went out in the afternoon to go contacting while holding a big sign we made to advertise for the free English class we have on Wednesday. The mission office makes tons of pamphlets with information about the English class, so we took a big stack and walked up and down the street passing the pamphlets out like crazy. Dinner time came so we started contacting our way back to our apartment building, where we would hang our sign back up in the lobby. By the time we got back to the little patio outside our apartment building, we had exactly one English pamphlet left. We wanted to eat food but we decided we had to get rid of the last pamphlet before we hung up the sign and ate some dinner. That's usually not a very hard thing--people usually take pamphlets pretty easily. So we started going around to the people sitting at tables on the patio and telling them about the English class. Strangely, every single person in that area refused to take the pamphlet. We looked around a little harder and finally saw a girl . . . . We went over and tried to give her the pamphlet. She wouldn't take it either. She said she already had one. She told us she'd met the [other] elders a few days ago and showed us the restoration booklet they left her. We talked to her a little about what they shared and encouraged her to keep meeting with them. . . . Because we ran into us after she decided to stand the other elders up, she realized this is a message God wants her to hear and changed her mind and went to meet with them. She met with the [other] elders for a while until they found out she lives in [our area]. Now we're meeting with her and . . . she's getting baptized next week! Isn't it amazing what God can do with one pamphlet?

I think the effort of "hoeing to the end of the row"--working to the end, even when hungry--often brings unusual blessings. Many great stories seem to have the element.