The debilitating disease, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is perhaps more commonly referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” According to the ALS Association website, it is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
Many people around the country are helping to raise awareness and raise financial support for research by accepting the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The challenge dares nominated participants to be filmed having a bucket of ice water poured on their heads and nominating others to do the same. The persons who are nominated to take the challenge have 24 hours to either accept the challenge or forfeit by making a $100 charitable donation to research. Many people are accepting the challenge, as well as making a charitable donation to support the necessary research.
The activity went viral on social media in mid-2014 as many people to include everyday housewives, school students, teachers, college students, professionals, politicians, athletes, and even well-known celebrities have accepted the challenge. According to The New York Times, between 1 June 2014 and 13 August 2014, people have shared more than 1.2 million videos on Facebook and mentioned the phenomenon more than 2.2 million times on Twitter since 29 July 2014. Among those who have accepted the challenge are Mitt and Ann Romney. Their videos of accepting the challenge are posted below.
The rapid advances in technological innovations affords the media countless resources for reaching and influencing the masses. Perhaps one of the easiest and most convenient venues for capturing a large audience in a short period of time is television commercials.
According to the 2014 Nielsen Advance National TV Household Universe Estimate (UE), there are 115.6 million homes in the United States which own a television, and an estimated 294 million people ages 2 and older who live in those homes. Nielsen also reports that the average American watches 5 hours of television per day. He also notes that children aged 2-11 watch over 24 hours of TV per week, whereas adults 35-49 watch more than 33 hours. As air time for programming is paid through commercial advertisements, it would stand to reason that the average American is exposed to a significant number of television commercials per week.
The Message and Influence of Television Commercials
Every commercial seems to have a purpose and an agenda behind it. Some commercials are designed to entice the viewer to invest in a product that he may buy and only use a few times before it is thrown in a corner or shoved in a closet. Other commercials influence viewers in a negative way by encouraging them to seek for riches and happiness by following the ways of the world. Still, there are others that positively influence the life of viewers, such as the TV commercials produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as “Home Fronts,” as the commercials generally focus on the importance of the family – the foundation of any society, or a selfless act or service.
Introduction to Mormonism and a Changed Life
In a Meridian Magazine article dated Monday, 28 July 2014, Chris Morse shares how watching television commercials created by The Church of Jesus Christ helped introduced him to the gospel and changed his life for the better. He recalls watching the commercials growing up as a kid, and how they always left him with a warm, happy feeling inside. The more he watched, the more he wondered why his own family couldn’t be more like an LDS television commercial. In the article he states,
Now I know why I felt so warm inside while watching those inspired TV messages. It was the Holy Ghost preparing me for the moment when the missionaries would present their message to me about the restored gospel. I have now been taught the plan of salvation. I want my children to grow up knowing the truth and their children. My decision to join the church was a gift to my wife and children and to the generations of families that will follow after us.
He recounts that his testimony began to grow when his family was asked by the missionaries to read the account of Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life in 1 Nephi 8 in the Book of Mormon. In the account is a large and spacious building in which there are people who mock Lehi and point their fingers at those who came and partook of the fruit representing the love of God.
Morse recalls that before his baptism, he was “like the people in the picture pointing their fingers and laughing in scorn because of my lack of knowledge and misunderstandings about the gospel.” After his second son was born, he began investigating different churches before making the decision to invite the missionaries to teach his family the gospel. He further commented,
After reading this story about Lehi in the Book of Mormon, I knew that the book was true and another testament of Jesus Christ. I now know that Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God. I know that President Monson is a living prophet and that he receives revelation about how to lead the church and its members in our day. I believe that the priesthood has been restored again to the earth. I am grateful to hold the priesthood. When my father-in-law blessed me with priesthood authority, I felt it was just as valid and strong as if it were done by the Savior himself.
Growing up, Chris Morse perhaps never realized the powerful, positive influence that watching commercial spots produced by The Church of Jesus Christ would have on his life. However, the messages in those videos helped start him on his journey for truth. He has had wonderful experiences in the Temple as he has participated in vicarious baptisms, and he has experienced the power of prayer and the priesthood as he has ministered to those in need in his ward. He now looks forward to going to the Temple to be sealed to his wife Carmen and their two sons for time and eternity.
Pioneer Day, which commemorates Brigham Young and the first group of Mormon pioneers entering into the Salt Lake Valley on 24 July 1847, is an official holiday that is celebrated each year on 24 July in the state of Utah. The early Mormon pioneers settled in the Salt Lake Valley after being forced from their homes in Nauvoo, Illinois, and other locations in the eastern United States. There are celebrations with parades, fireworks, rodeos, and other festivities in Utah as well as other regions of surrounding states which were originally settled by Mormon Pioneers. Most governmental offices and many businesses close in honor of the day of celebration. In addition, some Latter-day Saints walk portions of the Mormon Trail or reenact entering the Salt Lake Valley by handcart.
Remembering Their Pioneer Heritage in Light of Their Service
As many people gathered to participate in the festivities of Pioneer Day this year, there are other Utahns who are currently serving their country in the faraway place of Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, who took some time out from their demanding mission to remember their pioneer heritage and its significance to their devoted and dedicated service to their country. One soldier, Sgt. Mike Smith, stated, “As I think about spending this time of year away from family and home, I realize once more how much I have been blessed. I think of the pioneers, and know that their struggles were far greater than mine have been.” Sgt. Smith, a member of Dakota Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, is spending his second Pioneer Day in Afghanistan.
The National Guard unit of which Smith is a part of is based in Draper, Utah. The unit deployed in March for mobilization training on the East Coast, and by early May they had arrived in Kandahar. Many of the soldiers in the unit are fourth and fifth generation Utahns whose ancestors helped settle the state of Utah when it was known as Deseret.
For many of the service members from Utah, Pioneer Day has a special meaning as they reflect upon the faith and sacrifices of the early Mormon pioneers in comparison to the things that they have to endure while away from their families serving in Afghanistan. Smith further commented, “My heart ached for families who lost loved ones and rejoiced for those who made it to the Salt Lake Valley alive.” Another soldier, from Pleasant Grove, on her first deployment, commented that she draws strength from thinking about the Pioneers.
When I’m going through a hard time, I realize that it doesn’t compare to the suffering that (Utah) pioneers experienced. They traveled through really rough conditions, but they kept going,” said Sgt. Chloe Card, broadcast NCO from the 128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.
Maj. Choli Ence, the commander of the Utah National Guard’s 128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, believes that “the pioneer spirit is about working hard to make a better life.” Her great-grandparents emigrated from Switzerland and were among the original settlers of Ivins, in Utah Washington County. She recalls the stories that she heard while growing up:
You always heard stories — my grandpa, you know, his parents were the founding generation. I’d always hear about how he and his grandfather would farm, about how tough it was. They had a hard time growing things,” she said. “But they persevered and prospered.”
They didn’t have a lot of the luxuries that are available to us now. They were industrious people, and despite all the challenges, they put forth effort to survive, to flourish.
The early pioneers were also on a mission. Their mission was to find the place that God had prepared. With faith in every footstep, they gave their all, some even their lives, to fulfill their mission. Even in spite of sometimes daunting circumstances, they never faltered, but continued to press forward by faith.
Senior Airman Austin Aitken, a North Ogden native who joined the military in January 2012, envisions military life as an opportunity to put the pioneer spirit into action. His first assignment was at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, but a few months after he was married, his unit was deployed to Afghanistan. Comparing the deployment to the pioneer spirit, Aitken commented,
The pioneer spirit is stepping out of your comfort zone,” he said. “It’s going out and doing something that normally you wouldn’t do or others haven’t done but being willing to do it. Not a whole lot of Americans get the opportunity to deploy, especially to a combat zone.
It was similar for us in Iraq, in the sense that we lived in austere conditions and had to do hard things. But we just did it,” he said. “The spirit of being a pioneer is having to do something that people haven’t done before, and figuring out how to do it.
Hard work, dedication, and perseverance are not foreign words to these Utah military members. The mission that they are currently serving demands a great deal of their time and complete focus. They are also accustomed to making sacrifices as they leave their families behind to serve the country that they love and to protect its freedoms.
In the day and age in which we live, there are many people who seem to have lost sense of the real meaning of charity. There are people, regardless of their social status, who tend to live in their own little world and only think of themselves. Giving to help another in need doesn’t appear to be a part of their character.
However, there are others like Mormon entertainer, Dan Reynolds, the lead singer of the rock band Imagine Dragons, who do understand the concept of giving back. In fact, Reynolds has stated, “The best part of my career is to be able to do something to give back and to help.” He exemplifies the words of Anne Frank, the German-born Jewish girl from Frankfurt Germany, who wrote a diary while in hiding with her family and four friends in Amsterdam during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II, when she said, “No one has ever become poor by giving.”
Because He Has Been Given Much
It was Mother Teresa who said, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” Those words no doubt resonate with Kim Olsen White, who considers Reynolds to be a great friend.
White and Reynolds first met in 2007 while attending a fireside for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. White, a 26-year-old wife and mother from Utah, was 18 weeks pregnant with her second child when her doctor found a cantaloupe-sized tumor on her kidney. Unfortunately, the only way to remove the tumor was by delivering the baby [whom they named Hinckley], who subsequently did not survive. She is currently battling stage two adrenocortical carcinoma, an aggressive form of cancer originating in the cortex of her adrenal gland, and Reynolds is helping her meet her medical expenses by performing a benefit concert to raise the needed money.
In a July 16 Deseret News article, Reynolds stated, “I think anybody in that position to help should definitely take it because you feel like you’re part of something bigger than you, and it makes you see the world in a different way.” Reynolds’ intentions are not to gain any type of self-recognition or gratuity for performing a charitable deed, but rather his reward is the blessings that he receives from helping another. It is as the Savior Himself taught,
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again (Luke 6:38).
He realizes that because he has been given much, he must be willing to give in return.
The Power of Faith and the Love of Family
White has said that the hardest part of dealing with cancer, in particular the past six months, is the thought that her 2-year-old daughter, Hensleigh, might have to grow up without her mom. When she was in the hospital for 11 days, some of those in ICU, she went 48 hours without even being able to see her daughter, which she says was a dramatic first experience for the both of them. After her surgery she was not allowed to lift anything, which presented another challenge, especially when Hensleigh wanted her mom to hold her.
Through it all, White attests that it has been her faith that has allowed her to cope with her illness. She is currently taking four pills a day for her chemotherapy treatment. Thus far, things appear to be going well. In the July 16 Deseret News article, she commented:
I still get a little nauseous sometimes, and the pills are supposed to make my body weak, but I’ve been exercising more and more to combat that. I’m feeling very blessed that I’m doing well and I can take care of my daughter by myself again. I am able to live a normal life right now.
In order to remain true to her faith, she relies on personal prayers, scripture reading and study, and listening to Mormon Messages. She also understands the power of Priesthood blessings. She further commented, “There’s been many nights when I would pray to Heavenly Father and say, ‘I need a break. I need something to go well. I believe that in the hardest trials, you receive the biggest blessing and the most tender mercies.”
I look at her and she gives me a reason to fight and she gives me a reason to keep going, Even though she’s little, on my hard days I’ll put my head on her lap and cry, and she’ll say, ‘Mommy sad! Mommy sad!’ She’s my everything.”
Seeing the Good in People
Imagine Dragons is currently on tour in Europe, but Reynolds flew to Utah for the acoustic concert, which was performed on 17 July 2014 at the Sandy Amphitheater. Also performing were musical artists Joshua James and Timmy and the Teeth. Reynolds has stated, “It’s always a little more emotional playing for someone in need. It also can be a very uplifting, happy experience and that’s what we try to focus on.”
The word “education” is defined at Dictionary.com as “the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.” In short, education is an enlightening experience, or as Sydney J. Harris, an American journalist for the Chicago Daily News and later the Chicago Sun-Times, astutely stated, “The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” However, as someone has intelligently reasoned, “An educational system isn’t worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to make a living, but doesn’t teach them how to make a life.”
Why Mormons Place a High Value on Education
It is the desire of every faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to become more like their Father in Heaven. One way in which this is achieved is through the education of the mind, which enables a person to develop the skills and talents that will not only prove to be of great worth and help him to appreciate mortal life, but will be of value in the life hereafter as well. Modern-day revelation as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 130:18 teaches, “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.”
Robert Maynard Hutchins, an educational philosopher, Dean of Yale Law School, and President and Chancellor of the University of Chicago is quoted as having said, “The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.” He further stated, “My idea of education is to unsettle the minds of the young and inflame their intellects.” These intellectual ideas and others are incorporated in the philosophy which Latter-day Saints maintain about how and why members should pursue a life-long education.
Education will prepare you for greater service in the world and in the Church. It will help you better provide for yourself, your family, and those in need. It will also help you be a wise counselor and companion to your future spouse and an informed and effective teacher of your future children.
Education is an investment that brings great rewards and will open the doors of opportunity that may otherwise be closed to you. Plan now to obtain an education. Be willing to work diligently and make sacrifices if necessary. Share your educational goals with your family, friends, and leaders so they can support and encourage you.
As Latter-day Saints we believe in education, and we have a philosophy about how and why we should pursue it. Our religious faith teaches us that we should seek learning by the Spirit and that we have a stewardship to use our knowledge for the benefit of mankind.
Our quest for truth should be as broad as our life’s activities and as deep as our circumstances permit. A learned Latter-day Saint should seek to understand the important religious, physical, social, and political problems of the day. The more knowledge we have of heavenly laws and earthly things, the greater influence we can exert for good on those around us and the safer we will be from scurrilous and evil influences that may confuse and destroy us.
The Quest for Knowledge
Education is an ongoing process, therefore we are constantly learning throughout the different periods of our lives. Case in point, in the early morning of our lives, our school is our home, the students in the classroom are our siblings, and our teachers are our parents. In the afternoon of our lives, our school is a building outside the home, the students in the classroom become our friends and confidants, and our teachers are those who have themselves studied and prepared to impart knowledge to us that we will use as we continue on our journey through life. And in the evening of our lives, we continue learning in the school of life with the world being our classroom, and life itself being our teacher.
The start of each new day presents opportunities to learn new and interesting things. Mormons attest to the fact that the wise man gleans as much as he can from his life experiences, and with his new found knowledge and wisdom, he is able to chart and navigate his course in life. It should be noted, however, that education should include more than the things that are learned in the traditional classroom from textbooks. It should also include spiritual learning which can be obtained from the study of the scriptures, and for Latter-day Saints, that also includes the words of Latter-day prophets. Latter-day Saints are also encouraged to participate in seminary and institute classes and to continue throughout their lives to learn about Heavenly Father’s plan. It is through spiritual learning that a person, with the help of the Holy Spirit, is able to find answers to the quandaries and challenges of life.
Solomon, perhaps one of the wisest men who ever lived, wrote, “And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh” (Ecclesiastes 12:12). There are many students who have witnessed the truthfulness of that statement as they have pulled an all-niter studying their textbook, trying to memorize important material for a test or exam. In making his point, however, Solomon was not attempting to devalue or minimize the importance of education, but rather his counsel was, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14).
In the book of Proverbs, a son is exhorted to heed his father’s instruction, and the application of the knowledge learned is called wisdom. The word education may not appear in the English form in the Bible, but Scripture does say a lot about the process of education, and it begins with the parent and child. The command to parents is to nurture their children in the Lord (Ephesians 6:4), and the Greek word paideia, translated “nurture” in the KJV, carries with it the idea of training, education, instruction and discipline.
Solomon tells us that the basis of all true knowledge is the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). The word fear here does not carry the idea of terror or dread; rather, it is awe and reverence for the holiness and majesty of God and a reluctance to disappoint or disobey Him. Jesus said that when we know the truth, the truth will make us free (John 8:32). Freedom from fear comes from being educated in Truth.
In the Book of Romans, the Apostle Paul uses the word “know” or “knowing” eleven times. What is it that he exhorts that we should know? The Word of God. Thus, a knowledge of the Word of God is absolutely essential in our spiritual learning process. God’s Word is absolute truth, and the beauty of absolute truth is that it forever stands on its own merits as being truth regardless if one person believes it, if a thousand people believe it, or if no one believes it. Absolute truth does not need our sustaining vote to be declared as truth, nor can we void its validity by simply disbelieving it. Such “absolute truth” cannot be discovered in traditional education alone. When we acquire spiritual knowledge and apply it to our lives, we are then able to serve the Lord in spirit and truth (see Romans 6:11-13).
The Apostle Paul also admonishes us to, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). It is noted that the Greek word translated “study” means to give diligence, to exert oneself, or to make haste to apply oneself. Therefore, in our quest for knowledge, in order to adequately educate ourselves, we must include as part of the education process, the personal application of diligently studying the Word of God. At any cause, in all of our learning, we must avoid being, as Paul warns, “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7).
The purpose of God’s creations and of His giving us life is to allow us to have the learning experience necessary to come back to live with Him in eternal life. That is only possible if we have our natures changed through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, true repentance, and making and keeping the covenants He offers all of His Father’s children through His Church. True learning must have a powerful spiritual component. That spiritual element, when it is effective, refines and uplifts the aims of our total education.
The thirst for education can be a blessing or a curse, depending on our motives. If we continue to seek learning to serve God and His children better, it is a blessing of great worth. If we seek learning to exalt ourselves alone, it leads to selfishness and pride.
The Lord and His Church have always encouraged education to increase our ability to serve Him and our Heavenly Father’s children. For each of us, whatever our talents, He has service for us to give. And to do it well always involves learning, not once or for a limited time, but continually.
Remember, you are interested in education, not just for mortal life but for eternal life. When you see that reality clearly, you will put spiritual learning first and yet not slight the secular learning. In fact, you will work harder at your secular learning than you would without that spiritual vision.
William Ralph Inge, an English author, Anglican priest, Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, and Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, perhaps said it best when he stated, “The modern world belongs to the half-educated, a rather difficult class, because they do not realize how little they know.” Latter-day Saints are taught that although they may be a part of the world, they are not to be of the world. Therefore, they learn from an early age to learn, but not to follow, the philosophies of men, unless they are wise. “And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118). They realize the importance of education and dedicate their lives to continually learning for they also understand “the glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:36) and “Light and truth forsake that evil one” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:37).
On the evening of Wednesday, 25 June 2014, viral YouTube sensation, Lindsey Stirling, an American violinist, dancer, performance artist, and composer, performed at the Washington D.C. Temple Visitors’ Center. During the event hosted by the Washington D.C. North Mission and the visitors’ center, Stirling a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke of her faith and demonstrated her music prowess by playing her violin.
Stirling, who is well known for her amazing choreographed violin performances, both live and in music videos found on her YouTube channel, was a quarter-finalist in 2010 on season five of America’s Got Talent, where she became well-known as the hip-hop violinist. Since then, she has released two studio albums – a self-titled album, Lindsey Sterling, in 2012, and her newest release, Shatter Me, which reached number 2 in America and was nominated for Top Electronic/Dance album at the 2014 Billboard awards.
She has also released an EP and several singles. Her repertoire includes a variety of music styles ranging from classical to pop and hip-hop to electronic dance music with original scores, as well as covers of songs by other musicians and various soundtracks. Her music video “Crystallize” was ranked as the eighth-most watched video in 2012, and her cover version of Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” with Pentattonix won Response of the Year in the first YouTube Music Awards in 2013. As of June 2014 her YouTube channel has more than five million subscribers and 675 million total views with 100 posted videos.
During the event at the Washington D.C. Temple Visitors’ Center, Stirling performed “Shatter Me,” the title song of her second album. According to Stirling’s twitter account, the song, which was released in April 2014, quickly rose to the top of the charts and became the No. 1 album on AmazonMP3 and iTunes. In a recent video, Adweek featured her in a video in which she relates how her videos have gone viral on YouTube.
Stirling performed with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in 2013 and this summer she will be touring the United States and Canada.
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